On a recent Sunday, the 17th of May, 2020, one of the greatest fights in internet history turned 12 years old. It started with an innocent question on bodybuilding.com about how many days a week you can safely work out. It concluded in an absolute bloodbath between two muscleheads — TheJosh and Justin-27.
But it wasn’t politics or religion that tore them apart. Nope, it was something far more divisive: Does the week start on Sunday or end on Sunday?
If this comes as a surprise to you, it’s probably because you believe that the week starts on Monday. After all, that is the international standard. It also probably means that you think that Sunday, which exists during the part of the week many humans refer to as the “week’s end,” or “weekend,” is the final day of the week.
But that’s you. Or better put, that’s definitely not how everyone sees it. Case in point: Jed, a 30-year-old in Texas. According to him, the week starts on Sunday — end of story. “I’ve only encountered people who believe [the week] begins on Monday online,” he tells me. “So frankly, I assume anyone who thinks it starts on Monday is just an internet troll.”
Most Sunday-first devotees like Jed are downright biblical about their belief — in large part because it is, well, biblical. According to the United Church of God’s Bible Question and Answer page, Saturday is the seventh day in the Bible, and “the seventh day according to God’s calendar is — and always has been — the Sabbath day.” From a personal standpoint then, Jed’s week starts on Sunday with church, and Monday is simply the next day, during which he heads into work at the car shop.
If God’s will isn’t reason enough, Jed further argues, “That’s how the calendars are made in the U.S.”
He’s right. Most American calendars feature Sunday as the furthest-left day, indicating, if we are to follow the typical left-to-right, top-to-bottom writing system, Sunday starts the week. “In the U.S., according to the calendar we follow, Sunday is the first day of the week,” Magdalene Taylor, my colleague and fierce subscriber of the Sunday-first mentality, tells me. “Obviously, Monday can feel like the first day of the week because it’s the first day of the work week. But the oppression of labor is clouding your judgment — the work week is its own entity.”
Thus, Taylor says, “I’d much rather adhere to a spiritual tradition that’s thousands of years old than let the compulsions of labor and capitalism dictate my week in its entirety.”
And so, if we’re counting, a Monday-first week defies faith, country, and according to Jed’s final argument, logic. “While time itself is like an arrow with a definite start point and near-infinite future, a week is like a line segment,” Jed explains. “It has a clear start and end point, and both of those are ‘ends,’ again just like with a line segment.”
Jacob, a computer science teacher in Virginia who abides by the Sunday-first lifestyle, agrees. “Starting the week on Monday is inconsistent with the way we talk about the structure of the week,” he tells me. “It’s crazy that so many people get this wrong — the week has two ends — the first and last day.”
Here, though, is where things get even more abstract. “Thus, the ‘weekend’ is more accurately called ‘weekends,’” Jed says. “And the two days that comprise it are the endpoints of the week.”
“If Sunday were the last day and Monday the first, those would be the weekend days,” Jacob adds. “But Saturday is a weekend day, not Monday, so the only way this could work out is if the week was from Sunday to Saturday.”
Taylor takes a more philosophical approach. “Time is a false prison,” she says. “As a measurement, it isn’t real; yet we abide by its laws. The only reason we have Mondays is because we have Sundays.”
Unfortunately, the ultimate arbiter of such matters — the Horological Society of New York, arguably the preeminent experts on timekeeping — abstained from taking a side. “This is a very interesting question,” a PR rep writes over email, “but unfortunately we’re unable to provide a response at this time”
Hopefully, their answer will come soon, though. Otherwise, guys like TheJosh and Justin-27 will continue hammering their meaty fists against their keyboards ad infinitum, or until time itself ceases being an illusion and bends to one of their wills instead.