Part Four — Transcript

Copyright © 2004 LLT Productions

“Ivan Kuritsin”

I am Ivan – Ivan Kuritsin. I pray for courage to die a noble death today. I will die for my faith – for the truth that I have loved. I will die because of those things that I have believed and taught according to the holy Scriptures—both Old Testament and New. I will die today because I have observed the seventh day of the week as the holy Sabbath of God.

How did it come to this – this fiery death? I had such hopes. I had visions of the whole Russian church reforming – reviving the pure truth of the Gospel. But now it comes to an end.

Ivan the Third. He could not stay away. Once he was our friend. I wonder what is in his heart today.

Look there. Elena and Dmitrii. Subbotniks, Sabbath-keepers, like me. The tsar’s own daughter-in-law.  His grandson. What will become of them?  Will they burn, too? 

Ah. Sophia! She should be happy today. She was against us from the very beginning.

And Gennadii, the archbishop from Novgorod. He, he has lived for this day—for this fire. He claims that we have turned away from Christ and become like the Jews.

But I am a Christian, and I die today for love of Christ and His Word.

Hal Holbrook

Those horrific fires in Moscow five hundred years ago signaled the death of the fifteenth-century Russian Reformation – a Reformation characterized by its emphasis on observing Saturday—the seventh day—as the Sabbath.

Hello, I’m Hal Holbrook. Welcome to Part Four of The Seventh Day, Revelations from the Lost Pages of History.

The man in the cage, Ivan Kuritsin, was a prominent Russian theologian, and a leader of the religious uprising that historians call the Novgorod—Moscow Movement.   

The tsar – Ivan the Great – found this movement already well established in Novgorod when he seized control of that city around 1480.

Ivan found that two Russian Orthodox priests were at the heart of the movement in Novgorod.  He invited them to Moscow.  Dr. Oleg Zhigankov explains:

Oleg Zhigankov

The reasons that Ivan brought the two most prominent priests, Denis and Aleksy, from Novgorod to Moscow was that he himself was somehow sympathetic to the reformer's views. And Ivan installed them to be the priests at the two most important cathedrals in Moscow, in Russia. In Archangelski Cathedral and the Armenian Cathedral. Those two cathedrals are still the most important cathedrals in Russia.

Hal Holbrook

But the tsar wasn’t the only one who was pro-reform. The Novgorod – Moscow Movement reached into the highest levels of government and included people in the tsar’s inner circle. The whole story reads like a great Gothic novel.

On one hand you’ve got Elena Stephanovna, widowed daughter-in-law of the tsar—and she’s a Subbotnik—that is, she’s a Sabbath-keeper.

On the other hand there’s the tsar’s wife—actually his second wife, Sophia, a Greek princess by birth. She grew up in Italy under the influence of the Roman Catholic leaders, who hoped that her marriage to the tsar would pull the Russians closer to the Church of Rome.  But Sophia eventually adopted the Russian Orthodox religion.

So Tsar Ivan is caught between these two women, both of whom have great influence on him and his court – and the two of them are on opposite sides of the religious controversy!

But the plot thickens!  Elena’s son, Dmitrii—Ivan’s grandson—is in line to become the next tsar. And Dmitrii, like his mother, supports the Sabbath-keeping reformers.

Now, Sophia—remember, she’s the tsar’s second wife—bore him a son named Vasilii. And she wants her son to become tsar after Ivan, and she’ll stop at nothing to get her way.

Sophia has a powerful ally in Gennadii, the Russian Orthodox archbishop of Novgorod. Gennadii is a zealous, even fanatical, enemy of the Sabbath-keeping reformers.  He calls for extreme measures.  Listen to this:

Oleg Zhigankov

In some of his letters addressed to the Russian tsar, Gennadii venerates the methods of Spanish Inquisition and insisted that the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian state should apply these methods towards the Russian Subbotniks movement.

Hal Holbrook

Russian Orthodox church leaders met at the Council of Moscow and condemned the reformers as heretics. The Sentence of the Council details the charges:


“Some of you said blasphemy against many holy icons, and some of you cut the holy icons and burned them with fire.... And you have all honored the Sabbath more than the Resurrection Day of Christ.” Council of Moscow, 1490 1

Hal Holbrook

Now, of course, the Resurrection Day is Sunday, the first day of the week. The Council accused these reformers of honoring the seventh day, the Sabbath, more than the first day, Sunday. And that’s what united their movement.

The Council of Moscow was the beginning of the end for the Novgorod – Moscow Movement. It eventually died in the flames of Red Square. Elena Stephanovna and her son Dmitrii, fell out of favor. Their fate is unclear. Tsar Ivan the Third died and Sophia’s son Vasilii took his place. Just what his mother wanted.

Chapter Two: Ethiopia – Sabbath Crisis

Hal Holbrook

Early in the sixteenth century the Muslim kingdom of Adal attacked the Christian empire of Ethiopia. This was a jihad, a Moslem holy war backed by the powerful Ottoman Turks. It took over vast areas of the country, overwhelming the Ethiopian forces.

Hal Holbrook

In desperation, the emperor appealed to Portugal for aid. Several long and difficult years passed, and finally, in 1541, Portuguese troops arrived on the coast of what is now Eritrea.

Christavao da Gama, son of the famous navigator Vasco da Gama, commanded a band of 400 musketeers. Their mission: rescue Christian Ethiopia. 2

Hal Holbrook

It was a costly effort. In their first major battle the Portuguese took heavy casualties. da Gama himself was captured and beheaded by the Moslem commander. 3

Fortunately, with the help of the surviving Portuguese force, Emperor Galawdewos beat back the invaders in 1543, ending the Muslim threat. 4

But a few years later a new challenge to Ethiopia’s Christianity appeared, when Jesuit missionaries followed in the footsteps of the Portuguese troops.

Facing privation, captivity, torture, and death, these Jesuits devoted themselves to bringing the Ethiopian church into the Roman Catholic fold. 

But there were major differences between the Ethiopian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, not the least of which was that the Ethiopians observed the seventh-day Sabbath—a practice that dated back at least a thousand years.

Still, the Jesuit missionaries persisted. Finally, Emperor Susenyos embraced the Roman Catholic church and professed his allegiance to the pope. In 1622 he proclaimed Roman Catholicism the official religion of his empire. 5

Affonso Mendez, 6 a Jesuit priest, arrived in Africa as the newly appointed patriarch of the Ethiopian Church. He was eager to stamp out the traditions of the Ethiopian Church—especially Sabbath-keeping.

With Mendez urging him on, Emperor Susenyos issued a proclamation requiring his people to work on the Sabbath—a desecration of the holy day. 7 That was a big mistake. 

Kebede Daka

Both the clergy and the people, everybody turned against him. They didn't accept his proclamation. It was only the nobles, the kings and his subjects in the palace, were the only ones who were keeping the Roman faith.

Hal Holbrook

A violent wave of protest swept over the land. The people rebelled. They refused to give up their traditional religion. Susenyos saw his good intentions trigger a bitter civil war. There were thousands of casualties. Amid the chaos and bloodshed, came a voice of reason.

Kebede Daka

Facilidas was one of his sons, talked to his father, Susenyos, and said, "Look at how many people you have killed. How many are you going to kill again? These people are not pagans; they are not Muslims. They are our people, some of them are your relatives." And he convinced his father that what he did was wrong.

Kebede Daka

Susenyos passed another edict, finally, and said, "When I accepted the Roman faith, I thought it was good for the people. But, now, even the ignorant peasants choose to die to keep their tradition than accepting the new faith. Therefore, I will step down and give my kingdom to my son, Facilidas. From now on, he said, you are free to worship the way you want. 

In your churches, in your communities, you are free."

Hal Holbrook

Even today the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath, together with Sunday, is common in Ethiopia—the nation with world’s longest history of Christian Sabbath-keeping.

Chapter Three: The Inquisition

Hal Holbrook

Imagine this: You wake up one morning to the sound of policemen pounding on your door. They handcuff you and throw you into the back of a squad car and haul you off to jail without telling you why. They confiscate all your belongings and seize your life savings.

You spend months in a lonely cell, wondering why you’re there. Now and then the guards take you to be questioned by detectives – but it’s a strange kind of interrogation. They want you to tell them why you’ve been arrested. 

They say there are seven or eight witnesses against you, but they won’t say who they are. They want you to guess that, too. Sometimes they torture you. 

You try to think of who it was that accused you—of whatever crime you are supposed to have committed – and then you begin to name names, hoping to hit on the right ones.

Sometimes they promise to let you go – but only if you cooperate. So, eventually, you begin to make things up – to confess to things you’ve never done, hoping to satisfy them.

After a year or so, they take you to a courtroom with several other prisoners. A judge is reading out the sentences. Some prisoners are getting off easy.  Others are getting life in prison. Some are getting the death penalty.  What will you get?

Maybe that scenario gives you at least an inkling of what it was like to live in the grip of the infamous Inquisition – a diabolical scheme for identifying and eliminating religious dissent.

Michael Mullett

The Inquisition in Europe in the Middle Ages had its own rationale, its own justification. The first justification was that this life is so much less important than the life to come. And that therefore, if a person's earthly life was taken away for the sake of his or her immortal soul, you were doing a favor to that person. However, it has to be said that the other rationale of the inquisition was not so much to sentence people to death, to burning usually, but to reclaim the person, to persuade them to return to the bosom of holy mother, the church.

Hal Holbrook

Pope Gregory the Ninth established the medieval Inquisition back in 1231 8 to protect the Catholic world from heretics and religious rebels. The Inquisition was a highly organized operation, combining the powers of both church and state. It was a devastating weapon. Simply put, it got results!

Chapter Four: Spain – Heart of Intolerance

Hal Holbrook

In 1469 the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella merged the kingdoms of Aragon and Castile into the united kingdom of Spain. By the way, this is the same Ferdinand and Isabella who sent Christopher Columbus on his voyage of discovery in 1492. The new king and queen were militantly Catholic. In fact, they are called “The Catholic Monarchs,” but they had to face the fact that their Spain was not as Catholic as they wanted it to be.

You see, a generation or two earlier, the Jews of Spain had been compelled to convert to Catholicism under threat of deportation and loss of possessions. These forced converts were called “New Christians” – and the title stuck. They were baptized Roman Catholics, but some of them – perhaps many of them -- retained some traditional Jewish customs, like observing the seventh-day – Saturday – as  the Sabbath. Queen Isabella saw this as a serious desecration of the true Catholic religion.

So in 1478 she persuaded the pope to authorize the Spanish Inquisition. 9 She wanted to purge her church of any taint of Jewish heresy.

Michael Mullett

The Inquisition in Spain and Portugal devoted a great deal of its energy and its attention to wheedling out these people, to detecting these people, who on the face of it were Roman Catholics but who would in fact still clinging onto their Judaism.

Hal Holbrook

Some of the “New Christians” followed the Jewish custom of lighting a special candle before sunset Friday evening –  that’s when the Sabbath began, according to the Old Testament. In the eyes of the Inquisitors, this lighting of Sabbath candles was damning evidence. 10

The power of the Inquisition was subtle and insidious. The Inquisitors urged people to spy on their friends, their neighbors, even members of their own families. They used threats and torture to coerce people to give the evidence they needed. Hard-core heretics and repeat offenders faced the most extreme measures. They were turned over to the secular authorities for punishment. 

Some were burned in effigy. Others were burned at the stake—in person. 

The Spanish Inquisition spread its net wide and drew in others besides converted Jews.  The Roman Catholic Church also included ex-Muslims. The Inquisitors suspected them of secretly practicing Islam. And, of course, Spain had to be protected from a storm of religious controversy that was brewing in the rest of Europe. That, too, was the business of the Inquisition.

“Constantino Ponce de la Fuente”

“I am Constantino. Oh God, can you hear me? Are there not cruel pagans, are there no bloodthirsty cannibals worse than ravaging beasts – to whom you could deliver me, that I might escape these inhuman barbarians that keep me in this pit?

“Why am I here? Because of truth? Because of the Sabbath? I have loved Your Word. I have taught it faithfully. Am I to die here in this hole?”

Hal Holbrook

Dr. Constantino Ponce de la Fuente was an immensely popular preacher and a gifted writer. He had traveled throughout much of Europe as chaplain to the imperial court. 11

His peers held him in such high regard that he was elected magisterial canon of the great cathedral of Seville – a huge gothic structure that to this day ranks as the largest cathedral in the world. When Constantino preached, great crowds would pack the place to hear his sermons.

But Dr. Constantino was a Reformer – a particularly dangerous role to play in Seville, the very heart of the Spanish Inquisition.

It was here that Constantino and a few of his colleagues adopted some rather un-Catholic views. While holding the highest office in the great cathedral, he, along with his friends, formed what he called “the secret Christian church.” 12

Constantino believed that Christians should obey the Ten Commandments – and that this obedience is made possible through the gracious work of God in the Christian’s life. 13 In his opinion, obeying the Ten Commandments includes keeping the Sabbath on Saturday, the seventh day. 14


"Understanding human nature and how easy it is for a man to forget Him…God appointed a stated day to be offered to Himself as a tithe, on which, unencumbered by other cares, man should offer, inwardly and outwardly, acknowledgment to the Lord who created him.”  15 (Constantino Ponce de la Fuente)

Hal Holbrook

Members of the newly formed Society of Jesus—the Jesuits—became suspicious of Constantino after hearing his sermons.16 The office of the Inquisition repeatedly called him in to explain his teachings. His friends were concerned.  He told them, “They want me to be burned, but they found that I am still too green.” 17

Officers of the Inquisition finally arrested him in August of 1558, and took him to the Inquisitor’s prison, just outside Seville. 18

Cut off from his friends and supporters – and from the crowds that used to fill the cathedral – Constantino Ponce de la Fuente suffered his last days in an pitiless deathtrap. There was no crowd to hear his final words when he died in February, 1560 – another victim of the Spanish Inquisition. 19

Chapter Five: Goa – Reign of Terror

Hal Holbrook

Like Spain, neighboring Portugal also needed a solution to the problem of the so-called New Christians. There the Inquisition began in 1536 20 and didn’t finally end until well into the nineteenth century. Its three hundred years of tyranny and oppression were marked by unspeakable cruelty and violence.

Surviving records include long rosters of the victims—meticulous accounts that document the human tragedies in short, cold summaries.

One of this Inquisition’s darkest chapters was written far from Portugal – way to the East in India. How, you might ask, did the Inquisition get there? Well, let me tell you.

At the end of the fifteenth century Vasco da Gama, had sailed around the southern tip of Africa and on to India, opening the sea route from the Atlantic coast of Europe all the way to the Orient. 21

The Portuguese government quickly laid claim to key portions of India. It was a new world of opportunity. Eventually, many “New Christians” immigrated there, hoping to find a new life beyond the reach of the Inquisitors.

Jose A. Tavim

The converts or more properly referred to in Portuguese as the ‘New Christians’ started leaving Portugal and going to India especially in the years 30 and 40 of the sixteenth century primarily for religious reasons.

Hal Holbrook

In 1542 Francis Xavier, one of the original Jesuit missionaries, arrived in Goa, on the west coast of India. His purpose: to evangelize the people of the East. 22 He soon discovered problems within the growing Roman Catholic population there.

Jose A. Tavim

San Francis of Xavier indeed wrote a letter to his fellow priests, the Jesuits, stating that the Inquisition should be established in the East because there were some people who claimed to be Catholics but in reality inside they were Jews or Muslims.

Hal Holbrook Xavier died in 1552, but his appeal for an Inquisition in the East did not die with him. In 1560 the Portuguese Inquisition came to India, headquartered in Goa. 23

It specifically targeted Christians who refused to work on Saturday, and who began observing the Sabbath on Friday evening, as taught in the Bible. 24

Jose A. Tavim

Indeed most of those being accused were of Jewish origin. The exceptions involved some people in the East who had no Jewish roots but who observed, for instance, the Sabbath.

Hal Holbrook

It may be that those Sabbath-keepers who had no roots in Judaism are evidence of the local Indian Christians who had observed the Sabbath for hundreds of years—whose Sabbath customs dated back to the very first Christian churches in India. These local people weren’t even Catholic, nor could they be called “New Christians.” But this didn’t protect them from the long reach of the Inquisition of Goa.

“Charles Dellon”

“I am Charles Dellon, a physician and a citizen of France. Why am I here – a prisoner of the Inquisition? I am falsely accused, detained for no good reason.

“I am no heretic. Yet I have despaired of ever leaving this place. My only escape is death—so help me, I’ve tried to kill myself more than once. They want me to confess, but confess what? I have confessed, again and again, but they want more. At least I’m not one of the New Christians. That’s who they are really after.”

“And I—I am not fortunate, in any way. For I am caught here just as they are, and my end as uncertain as theirs.”

Hal Holbrook

We know about Charles Dellon’s case because he later wrote about it in detail. Accused of only trivial offenses, he was held for two long years before his trial. His judges banished him forever from India and sentenced him to five years as a slave laborer in the shipyards of Lisbon. 25

He was more fortunate that most. Friends from France intervened on his behalf, and he won an early release from the Inquisitor General. In 1677 he returned safely to France, 26 where he began to write about his nightmare as a victim of the Inquisition. In his account he claims that a majority of those burned at the stake for judaizing were not Jews at all, but Christians who kept the Sabbath.


"Of an hundred persons condemned to be burnt as Jews, there were scarcely four who profess that faith at their death; the rest exclaiming and protesting to their last gasp that they are Christians, and have been so during their whole lives." 27 (An Account of the Inquisition of Goa, by Charles Dellon)

Hal Holbrook

In 1684 Charles Dellon published his Account of the Inquisition at Goa. 28 The book reveals the operation of the Portuguese Inquisition from the viewpoint of a victim. You can check it out for yourself. It isn’t a pretty picture.

Chapter Six: Sola Scriptura

Hal Holbrook

When he nailed his 95 Theses to the cathedral door in Wittenberg, Martin Luther really didn’t mean to turn the Christian world upside down. He just wanted to see a few changes in the Roman Catholic church—his church. 

But Luther had started a fire that no one could put out. We know it as the Protestant Reformation. It emphasized a new reliance upon the sacred Scriptures.

Gordon Isaac

Luther considered the Word of God to be the greatest treasure that humanity has received. Luther wanted to see that the Bible was translated into the vernacular so that common people could read the Scriptures and benefit from them.

Hal Holbrook

For Martin Luther and his colleagues, the Bible was central. It was the standard of truth and the benchmark of all doctrine. Their motto was “sola scriptura” –the Scriptures only!

Gordon Isaac

For Luther, the Bible is the sole authority for faith and practice. That put the tradition of the church in question. Or, maybe we could put it this way: For Luther, the Bible was the standard by which church tradition should properly be measured.

Hal Holbrook

The Protestant Reformation was a movement of protest against the Roman Catholic institution and many of its teachings. It resulted in the proliferation of churches and denominations that we see today. Things might have turned out differently if the Roman Catholic church had convened a general church council to consider the issues raised by the Reformers. But early calls for a council seemed to fall on deaf ears. Dr. John O'Malley, a Jesuit historian, tells us why.

John O’Malley

Clement the Seventh was pope from 1523 to 1534, and he was afraid of a council, actually, because he was afraid the council might try to depose him. Maybe an irrational fear on his part but, nonetheless, it was something that was very much in his own mind and in his own fears.

Hal Holbrook

The pope wasn’t the only one who didn’t want a council. The king of France opposed it for strictly political reasons, and eventually the king of England took his own stand against it. The pressure for a council mounted until finally, in 1545, Catholic leaders traveled to the city of Trent, at the foot of the Alps in northern Italy. Over a period of 18 years the Council of Trent grappled with some of the most critical issues the Roman Catholic church had ever faced.

John O'Malley

The first real substantial issue that the council dealt with was what we might call the issue of authority, that is to say the role of Scripture and then the role of church traditions.

Hal Holbrook

Gaspare del Fosso, archbishop of Reggio Calabria, affirmed the standard church position when he denounced the Protestants for rejecting Roman Catholic supremacy.

“Gaspare del Fosso”

"The heretics of this age are trying to overthrow the authority of the church. They claim to make the the sacred Scriptures the foundation of their faith.  But it is the church, after all, that has authority over the Scriptures. It is the church that points us to the Scriptures and declares them to be divine, and explains them faithfully when they are difficult to understand.” 29

Michael Mullett

The Council of Trent resolved that the authority of the church rested on twin pillars, not on Scripture alone, but on Scripture and something that the council called tradition—the ongoing authority that descended, the faith that came from the apostles, that acted as a twin pillar alongside Scripture to sustain the teaching authority of the Catholic Church.

John O'Malley

The Decree of Trent, on this issue of authority, begins by saying that the faith of the church, and practice of the church, is based upon the teaching and preaching of Christ and the apostles. As this has come down to us in two ways, in the written tradition, let us say in the written Scriptures, and then in the unwritten traditions that go back to the time of the apostles.

Dennis Martin

The Catholic understanding was that Christ, Himself, established the structure of the church, focused on the bishops. So that when bishops faced a dispute over the interpretation of Scripture, they couldn't just make up their minds as they pleased, but they had to take into account the decisions of preceding centuries of bishops and councils deciding questions. That was the tradition. So the tradition then becomes a lens through which the bishops decide an interpretation of Scripture.

Hal Holbrook

Here was a fundamental position that still separates the Church of Rome from most of the Protestant world. By confirming the authority of unwritten tradition, the bishops at the Council validated many non-biblical teachings and customs. 

John O'Malley

In this, in this decree, the council does not list any of them. But we know from the discussions that issues that were on the minds of the bishops were, for instance, infant baptism. Where do you find that in the Bible? And yet that's an established Christian practice. The teaching of the Creed that Christ ascended into hell. Not so clear where we can find that in the New Testament. What about Sunday observance? That doesn't seem to be in the New Testament. What about the apostle's creed itself? We now know that didn't come from the time of the apostles, but the people of Trent believed that it did. So that's another example of tradition that bothered the people at the council, felt that they could not sort of subscribe to a scripture alone position in a strict sense.

Hal Holbrook

So how could there be a change in the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday? To the Roman Catholic bishops at the Council of Trent, the answer was clear. 

“Gaspare del Fosso”

“The Sabbath, the most glorious day in the law, has been changed into the Lord's day. This has not been done by the command of Christ, but by the authority of the church.” 30

Chapter Seven: The Radical Reformers

Hal Holbrook

Anabaptists – now there’s a name to boil the blood of sixteenth-century Catholics and Protestants alike. They got their name because they didn’t believe in baptizing babies. And baptizing babies was standard practice for Christians at that time. Anabaptists believed that baptism was only for adults who understood and accepted the gospel message.

John Roth

From the very beginning of the Anabaptist Movement in 1525, authorities, both Catholic and Protestant, regarded the movement as a threat to the civil order of the state.

Hal Holbrook

These Anabaptists denied that church and state had any authority over a man’s conscience. And they taught that the common man could understand the Bible for himself, with no need for the church to interpret it for him. And the only true church is the one described in the New Testament, the church of Jesus and the apostles. 

This was very different from the Roman Catholic view – and much more radical than the view of most Protestants.

John Roth

The Anabaptists understood their renewal movement to be an attempt to restore the true church on the foundations of Christ's teachings in the Gospel and also in the model of the early church as it's described in the Book of Acts.

Hal Holbrook

Some historians see Andreas Bodenstein von Carlstadt as the forerunner of the Anabaptist movement. Early on, he was a friend and colleague of Martin Luther, but their friendship broke up over theological differences.

Calvin Pater

They both believed that you needed to use the Scripture. Luther could add to Scripture anything that does not contradict Scripture can be added. For Carlstadt, it was the Scripture, you did not add to it.

Hal Holbrook

So Luther would accept anything that the Bible did not specifically reject or prohibit.  Carlstadt, on the other hand, would accept only what the Bible specifically taught—and nothing more. Carlstadt’s study of the Scripture led him to the Bible Sabbath and its spiritual meaning. Here’s what he says:


“Sabbath keeping has a double object; in obedience to God we must rest in peace and pray to God for all holiness and wait to receive it. This rest is realized in man's recognition that holiness comes from no other source than Christ and that we must be holy as God is holy.” 31

Richard Muller

When he speaks about the Sabbath, he means a kind of inner Sabbath, in contradiction to the, or in opposition to the outer Sabbath, or outward Sabbath. He is more interested in the inner Sabbath, that means the rest of God within me. One could call it a kind of inner sanctification. This is his greatest concern. And the outer Sabbath should be a help to achieve this inner Sabbath.

Hal Holbrook

Unlike Carlstadt, Luther and other Reformers generally agreed that the Sabbath of the Bible was irrelevant to Christians. Instead, they promoted Sunday – not as a Sabbath but as a celebration of the resurrection of Christ.

But Carlstadt believed that Sunday observance was merely a human invention. And he wasn’t alone in that view. Two Anabaptist preachers, Oswald Glaidt and Andreas Fischer, took a similar position. 

Daniel Liechty

Now when they read their Bible from beginning to end, they simply saw no precedent, no authority for this change that happened from a Saturday, Sabbath worship to a Sunday worship, day of worship.

Hal Holbrook

It was in Silesia—that’s southwestern Poland—that Glaidt and Fischer began preaching and teaching about the seventh-day Sabbath. This was a strong Anabaptist area, and the two men had great success in establishing groups of Sabbath-keepers there. 32 What made them so convincing was clear, logical arguments like these:

Hal Holbrook

The Ten Commandments are the basis of the Moral Law. Therefore the Sabbath, the Fourth Commandment, is part of the Moral Law, which Christians are to obey.

There are not eight or nine, but rather ten, Commandments. We cannot say that some are to be followed while others can be forgotten.

Jesus Himself kept the Sabbath.

The Apostles, and the earliest church fathers taught the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath.

It was Pope Victor and Constantine, the Emperor, who established Sunday worship in the church. 

On the other hand, God Himself established Sabbath worship. We should keep the Sabbath out of love for God. 33

Hal Holbrook

Neither Glaidt nor Fischer would die a natural death. Glaidt was ultimately arrested, taken to Vienna, imprisoned, tortured, and finally drowned in the Danube—a typical fate for an Anabaptist. 34 Fischer’s story is a little different.

Daniel Liechty

In 1529, Andreas Fischer and his wife show up in Slovakia preaching among the miners there. 35

Daniel Liechty

And, for this they were arrested and they were taken to the Tschitschva Castle. The arrest took place in May. They were held in the dungeon until August, at which time there was a trial of some sort.

Daniel Liechty

Both were condemned to death, the wife by drowning and Andreas Fischer by hanging. 36 And the wife was indeed taken out and drowned. 37

Hal Holbrook

The execution of Andreas Fischer was another matter altogether. Oh, they hung him, all right. From the castle tower. It seems he dangled on the end of that rope for hours—but he didn’t die.  

Hal Holbrook

Maybe the rope broke. Maybe some friends cut him down. The record is unclear as to just how it happened. What is clear is that Andreas Fischer survived. 38

Daniel Liechty

After Fischer's mysterious, or we might even say miraculous, escape from execution he labored on for another ten years as an itinerant minister. He shows up in Moravia, he shows up in Bohemia, he shows up in Slovakia, and he seemed to have a sort of a circuit that he traveled for the next, ten years.

Hal Holbrook

In 1540 Andreas Fischer was captured and dragged off to the castle at Krasnahorka in what is now southern Slovakia. This time there was no trial—no escape—and no survivor. 39

Hal Holbrook

It turns out that folks kept the seventh-day Sabbath in widely scattered locations during the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries. We’ve already mentioned Russia, Ethiopia, Spain, India.

But to find the most outstanding examples, we go to England. There, King Henry the Eighth had taken the entire ecclesiastical system out of the Roman Catholic Church. He took the cathedrals, the monasteries, and the convents. He took the church hierarchy—priests and bishops at all levels. He took them all, and created his own version of a national Protestant church—the Church of England.

Chapter Eight: The Seventh-day Men

Hal Holbrook

Eight people were killed and many more injured when a grandstand collapsed at Paris Gardens, just outside London, in January of 1583. It was a Sunday afternoon, and a large crowd had gathered to watch a bear baiting. 

Bear baitings were cruel, hideous, and inhumane spectacles, where people cheered as packs of vicious dogs attacked chained bears. It was a popular form of entertainment in sixteenth-century England. Queen Elizabeth herself was a fan. 40

Was the Paris Garden tragedy a sign of God’s anger against a society that profaned the holy Sabbath? That’s what Puritan preachers thought. 41

Janet Thorngate

The Puritans were people in the Church of England desiring to rid the church of practices and beliefs that they felt were inconsistent with Scripture. The Bible is now available to more and more people in English, and so it’s easier for them to realize that there are discrepancies: Why are we doing this when the Bible says we should be doing this? They became called Puritans because they wished to purify the church.

Hal Holbrook

The Church of England—the Anglican Church—was very much like the Roman Catholic church. There was some Reformation theology, but much Roman Catholic form and substance survived. For the Puritans, there hadn’t yet been enough Reformation in England.

So the Puritans thundered against the Sabbath-breakers—those gamblers and theatergoers. This must have been an uphill battle with William Shakespeare and his great plays coming on the scene. 

The English church, and the monarchy, opposed the Puritan view of strict Sabbath observance.

In 1618 King James the First—that’s the James of the King James Bible—published the Book of Sports and ordered preachers to read it from their pulpits. Many Puritan pastors refused. They were incensed because the king’s book encouraged secular sports on the Lord’s day. 42

But here’s an interesting point: most of this Puritan clamor for Sabbath reform was not about the Sabbath at all.  It was about stricter observance of Sunday. There were a few, however, who called for a real Sabbath reformation—a return to the Sabbath of the Bible. These became known as the Seventh Day Men. 

Bryan Ball

The Sabbatarian movement in England was largely a spontaneous result of the study of Scripture and the growing conviction of the obligations of observing the fourth commandment, which enjoined the observance of the seventh day of the week as opposed to the first day of the week.

Hal Holbrook

One of the first heroes among the Seventh-day Men was a woman, Dorothy Traske. Her husband, John Traske, was a zealous Puritan who was arrested in 1617 for urging people to keep the  seventh day holy. He recanted his Sabbath views in order to avoid life imprisonment 43 —but Dorothy was made of sterner stuff. She went to prison for her Sabbath beliefs and remained there until the day she died. 44

In 1628 an Anglican clergyman named Theophilus Brabourn produced the first English-language book calling for the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath. 45 His Discourse upon the Sabbath Day laid the theological foundations for a movement that, in one form or another, has continued into the twenty-first century.

"Theophilus Brabourne"

“The matter is clear. It takes only our own record of days and weeks to make an end to the argument. It is the seventh day, the Sabbath of Creation, that we need to keep holy. When you can show me from the Scripture that there is any other seventh-day than the day that we call Saturday—the last day of the week—then I might be persuaded that the Fourth Commandment means some other seventh day besides Saturday.” 46

Hal Holbrook

The basis of Brabourne’s Sabbath arguments was the supreme authority of the Bible. He insisted that Saturday is the seventh day – the seventh day of the week as established by God at Creation – and the seventh day of the Ten Commandments.

“Theophilus Brabourne”

“I care not whether you keep Saturday–Sabbath, Sunday–Sabbath, or Monday–Sabbath. But if we have respect to God or to his Scriptures, let us give him the day of his own choice, not another.” 47

Hal Holbrook

He makes a lot of sense. In 1660 Brabourne published a pamphlet claiming that the Saturday/Sunday issue was the greatest controversy in the Church of England at that time. His great hope was that the entire Church of England would convert from Sunday-keeping to the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath. 48

Janet Thorngate

Brabourne’s main emphasis, in terms of the Sabbath, was the biblical record.  From Creation through the Ten Commandments, through the teachings and practices of Jesus, through the apostles in the first-century church, there was no change in the day, and so he contended that the church should be worshiping on the seventh-day Sabbath.

Bryan Ball

Brabourne's theology of the Sabbath was essentially Christ-centered. In addition to regarding the Sabbath as a memorial of creation, which he did, he also regarded it as a sign of redemption in Christ.

Hal Holbrook

The official church position was that the Fourth Commandment belonged to the ceremonial law that ended with the death of Christ on the cross. Brabourne called that kind of reasoning a monstrous hotch-potch, and he pointed out that all Ten Commandments had been written on stone by the hand of God – and there was nothing ceremonial about any of them.  49

“Theophilus Brabourne”

The moral law, or Decalogue, spoken by God, and wrote by His finger in tables of stone, is still in force. 50

Hal Holbrook

Brabourne’s opponents argued that Christ Himself had changed the Sabbath to the first day of the week. He replied that such a claim was a “notorious slander raised against Christ.” He supported his view by pointing out something that should have been obvious even to his adversaries: the Scriptures contain no record of Christ saying even one word about altering the Sabbath.  51

Brabourne claimed that Sunday observance was an error to be charged to the Church of Rome, rooted in tradition, not Scripture. Other Seventh Day Men would agree with him. They were not shy about blaming Rome for the Saturday-to-Sunday change. 52 They called for the English Parliament to correct the error.


“We do hereby, in God’s stead, exhort you to bring back the Lord’s holy Sabbath to its proper day.”
(An Appeal to the Consciences of the Chief Magistrates) 53

Hal Holbrook

That kind of talk was dangerous! Some of the Seventh Day Men paid dearly for their brave words. In 1632 Theophilous Brabourne himself was arrested and confined in London’s Gatehouse prison. The court fined him 1,000 pounds—that’s something like $150,000 US dollars in today’s money. They stripped him of his ministerial license and ordered his excommunication from the Church of England. Besides all that, he spent a year and half behind bars. 

But courts and prisons could not divert Brabourne or his fellow Seventh Day Men from their purpose.

Bryan Ball

James Ockford was a Baptist who lived in the city of Salisbury. And in the year 1650, he wrote a book advocating observance of the seventh day entitled, The Doctrine of the Fourth Commandment.

One of his main arguments, according to the title page, was that the fourth commandment had "been deformed by popery."

Hal Holbrook

One hundred copies of Ockford’s book were seized by authority of the mayor of Salisbury,

and a sample was sent to Parliament. Within a matter of days the House of Commons condemned the book on the grounds that it was erroneous, scandalous, and profane, and ordered that all copies in England and Wales be publicly burned. 54

Ockford himself was excommunicated and sentenced to prison. As for his book, only one copy survives to this day – in the library of Christ Church, in Oxford, England.

Another Sabbath reformer, Francis Bampfield, was a descendant of Sir Francis Drake and brother of a distinguished member of Parliament. Although he was one of the greatest English preachers of his day, his nonconformist views landed him in prison in 1663. It was there, in the Dorchester jail, that he discovered the Bible Sabbath and started observing the seventh day. Several other inmates joined him. 55

After his release, Bampfield became a leading proponent of the Sabbath. He went to London and tried to organize a union of Sabbath-keeping congregations there. Ten years later, in 1683, he was arrested while preaching to his congregation in London. He died in his prison cell a year later. 56

Despite hardship and persecution, the seventh-day movement flourished in seventeenth-century England. Numerous congregations gathered for worship on Saturday in widely scattered parts of the country. 

Woodham-Mortimer was home to one of the most prominent and influential of the Seventh Day Men. Physician to three sets of English kings and queens, Peter Chamberlen was a famous doctor and a long-time Sabbath-keeper. Take a look at his tombstone.


"As for his religion, he was a Christian, keeping the commandments of God and faith of Jesus. Being baptized about the year 1648 and keeping the seventh day Sabbath above thirty two years."  57

Hal Holbrook

Chamberlen was an energetic and ambitious man who wasn’t afraid to speak his mind. In 1682 he wrote an open letter to the Lord High Chancellor, calling the pope the “triple-crowned-little-horn-changer of times and laws” – a reference to a startling prophecy from the Old Testament book of Daniel. 58


“And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws.” (Daniel 7:25)

Hal Holbrook

Peter Chamberlen, along with other Seventh Day Men, believed that this prophecy foretold the Roman pontiff’s attack on the Bible Sabbath. 59

Were Chamberlen and the others right? Some critics see their views as the wild imaginings of rabid nonconformists. But however radical their point of view, the Seventh Day Men of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England started something that is still going on. The Seventh Day Baptists, their immediate spiritual descendants, carried their Sabbath doctrine across the centuries and across the Atlantic to the New World. We’ll tell their story when we return with Part Five, the final chapter of The Seventh Day.


Kazakova, N. A., and Y. S. Lur’e, Anti-Feudal Heretical Movements in Russia (AED)(Moscow: Academy of Sciences, 1955), 383.  Quoted in Zhigankov, O. “The Issue of Antitrinitarianism in the Fifteenth-Century Novgorod-Moscow Movement: Analysis and Evaluation” (Ph.D. dissertation, Andrews University, 2000). The phrase “Resurrection Day” is ours.  The original word is “Voskresenija,” the Russian word for the first day of the week as the day of Christ’s Resurrection. View source

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<>[Accessed March 31, 2005]. View source

Stuart Munro-Hay, Ethiopia, the Unknown Land (London: I. B. Tauris Publishers, 2002), p. 181. View source

Ibid. pp. 181-182. View source

“Catholic Eastern Churches: From the Oriental Orthodox Churches – Ethiopian Catholic Church,” Catholic Near Eastern Welfare Association. <> [Accessed December 5, 2005]. View source

Calvin E. Shenk in “Reverse Contextualization: Jesuit Encounter with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.” Direction: A Mennonite Brethren Forum, Vol. 28, No. 1, 88-100. View source

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10 Cecil Roth: “The Religion of the Marranos”; The Jewish Quarterly Review, Vol. XXLL, No. 21, July 1931, p. 21. View source

11 “The Inquisition and the Reformers at Seville.” Cambridge Modern History: The Reformation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1911) Vol. 2, chap. 12. <>[Accessed April 7, 2005]. View source

12 Constantino Ponce de la Fuente, Doctrina Cristiana en que está comprendida toda la información que pertenece al hombre que quiere server a Dios ( Antwerp: Juan Steelsio, 1554), folio 264. Quoted in Veloso, M. “The Reformation in Seville, 1530 – 1560”, (MDiv thesis, Andrews University, 1972), p. 95. View source

13 Ibid., pp. 64, 65. Quoted in Veloso, "Seville," p. 143. View source

14 Ibid., p. 66. Quoted in Veloso, "Seville," pp. 143, 144. View source

15 Constantino Ponce de la Fuente, Suma de Doctrina Cristiana: Sermón de Nuestro Redentor en el Monte: Catezimo Cristiano: Confesión del pecador. Cuatra libros compuesto por el Doctor Constantino Ponce de la Fuente.  (Reformistas Antiguos Españoles, vol XIX, ed. Luis de Usóz y Ríos.) Madrid, 1858.  Quoted in Veloso, "Seville," p. 145. View source

16 Veloso, “Seville," p. 102. View source

17 "The Inquisition and the Reformers at Seville.” Cambridge Modern History: The Reformation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1911) Vol. 2, chap. 12. <>[Accessed April 7, 2005]. View source

18 William Harris Rule, History of the Inquisition (London: Wesleyan Conference Office, 1868), p. 99. View source

19 Veloso, “ Seville.” View source

20 "John III." Encyclopædia Britannica from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service. <>[Accessed April 3, 2005].  View source

21 "Gama, Vasco da, 1er Conde Da Vidigueira" Encyclopædia Britannica from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service. < <>[Accessed April 3, 2005]. View source

22 “St. Francis Xavier” The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VI. Copyright © 1909 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by Kevin Knight [Accessed April 3, 2005] View source; “Xavier, Saint Francis.” Encyclopædia Britannica from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service. <> [Accessed April 3, 2005]. View source

23 António José Saraiva, The Marrano Factory: The Portuguese Inquisition and Its New Christians 1536 – 1765, Translated, Revised, and Augmented by H. P. Salomon and I. S. D. Sassoon(Boston: Brill, 2001) Appendix 4. View source

24 Anant Kabka Priolkar, The Goa Inquisition (Bombay: Priolkar, 1961), p. 93. View source

25 Charles Dellon, An Account of the Inquisition of Goa (Hull: Joseph Simmons, 1812), pp. 111, 149, 150. View source

26 Ibid., pp. 156-160. View source

27 Ibid., pp. 64, 65. View source

28  This date for the French publication is suggested by the translator's comments in the English version printed by Joseph Simmons, Queen Street, Hull, in 1812 for I. Wilson, Lowgate. See Dellon, p. vii. View source

29  Giuseppe Mansi, Sacrorum Consiliorum, vol. 33, columns 529-530. Our script presents a paraphrase of Gaspare del Fosso's remarks. View source

31  Andreas Carlstadt, Von dem Sabbat und gebotten feyer Tagen, as quoted in Wentland, R. W., “The Teaching of Andreas Bodenstein von Carlstadt on the Seventh Day Sabbath,” (MA thesis, Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, 1947), p. 29.  View source

32 André Séguenny, ed., Bibliotheca Dissidentium: Répertoire des non-conformistes religieux des seizèime et dix-sept ème siècles, tome 9, vol. 113 of Bibliotheca Bibliographica Aureliana (Baden-Baden: Éditions Valentin Koerner, 1988), p. 9.  View source ; Hasel, G., “Sabbatarian Anabaptists of the Sixteenth Century,” Andrews University Seminary Studies, 5, no. 2 (1967), p. 112.  View source

33 Daniel Liechty, Sabbatarianism in the Sixteenth Century (Berrien Springs, Michigan: Andrews University Press, 1993), pp. 30, 31, 38. View source

34 Ibid., pp. 35, 36; View source; Hasel, “Anabaptists,” pp. 114, 115. View source

35 Daniel Liechty, Andreas Fischer and the Sabbatarian Anabaptists, no. 29 of Studies in Anabaptist and Mennonite History (Scottdale, Pennsyvania: Herald Press, 1988), pp. 74, 75. View source

36 Ibid., pp. 75, 77. View source

37 Ibid., p. 77. View source

38 Ibid., p. 77. View source

39 Ibid ., p. 84. View source

40 Jessica A. Browner, “Wrong Side of the River: London's disreputable South Bank in the sixteenth and seventeenth century,” Essays in History, vol. 36 (University of Virginia: Corcoran Department of History, 1994) pp. 64-66. [Accessed April 10, 2005]. View source

41 Ibid., p. 66. View source

42 "Sports, Book of." Encyclopædia Britannica from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service.
<> [Accessed April 10, 2005] View source; David S. Katz, Sabbath and Sectarianism in Seventeenth-Century England, vol. 10 of Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History, (New York: E. J. Brill, 1988), p. 6. View source

43 Bryan Ball, The Seventh-day Men (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), pp. 55, 56. View source

44 Ibid. View source; Don Sanford, A Choosing People: The History of the Seventh Day Baptists, (Nashville: Boardman Press, 1992), p. 51. View source

45 Ibid., p. 62. View source

46 Based on Theophilus Brabourne’s Discourse upon the Sabbath Day, p. 75, as quoted by Ball, Seventh-day Men, p. 69. View source

47 Ball, Seventh-day Men, p. 70. View source

48 Ibid., pp. 6, 63 View source; Sanford, Choosing People, p. 53. View source

49 Ibid., p. 73. View source

50 Ibid., p. 76. View source

51 Ibid., p. 71. View source

52 Ibid., p. 11. View source

53 Ibid. Precise wording of the quotation: “We do hereby, in God’s stead, exhort you to reduce  the Lord’s holy Sabbath to its proper day.”  The word “reduce” meant “bring back” in the seventeenth century. (Source: Online Etymology Dictionary < View source

54 Ibid., pp. 137, 138 View source; Sanford, Choosing People, pp. 58, 59. View source

55 Ibid., p. 146 View source; Sanford, Choosing People, p. 70. View source

56 Ibid., p. 119 View source; Sanford, Choosing People, p. 71. View source

57 Katz, Sectarianism, p. 86. View source

58 Ball, Seventh-day Men,pp. 12, 13. View source

59 Ibid., p. 12 View source; Katz, Sectarianism, p. 84, 85. View source