Should Christians Celebrate Easter?

By Craig Bluemel

 

History Of Easter

 

Easter is the name of a Roman Catholic Church ‘holy day’ (modern = holiday) and is associated with the resurrection of Jesus Christ by the orthodox traditional sects of Christendom worldwide.  The word Easter is NOT found in the Old Testament or New Testament, except for one verse and only in the King James Version of the Bible (Acts 12:4 - KJV).  This begs a question that must be answered, “Why celebrate Easter to honor the day Christ was raised from the dead if this word and its religious precepts cannot be found anywhere in the Scriptures?”

 

The average Christian in the 21st has a vast array of information to draw from via the Internet in order to form conclusions concerning the viability of the so-called ‘Christian’ holidays (e.g. – Easter, Lent, Christmas, etc).  A simple query of the word “Christmas,” or the word, “Easter,” in one’s computerized search engine yields a myriad of web sites ready and willing to provide fact-based information.   For example, I did a search for information about Christmas and found it is derived from Roman Catholic liturgy and has been known from its inception as, “Christ’s-Mass,” or as the, “Mass of Christ,” or simply, “Christmass.”  Like Easter, Christmas is no more “CHRISTian” than the Roman Catholic MASS is a legitimate substitution for the sacrificial death of Christ! 

 

Christmas originates from Neoplatonic ideas, especially the mixture of ancient Greco-Roman festivals that celebrate the role and function of pagan deities and the teachings of the New Testament concerning the birth of Jesus as the Christ-child.  The same holds true for the celebration of Easter, which to those unaware of its’ associated with Greco-Roman demigods, and even more ancient relationship to Mithraism, think they are rejoicing at the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

 

It is important however for pastors and teachers to educate the church of God by providing accurate factual information concerning Christmas and Easter.  These holidays do not connote the same demonic affiliations as Halloween, which is steeped in occult ritual worship, witchcraft and Satanism; however, any time truth and light are compromised by deceit and darkness, the outcome is never going to result in the purity of God. 

 

Ignorance is NOT bliss when it comes to truth from God’s word and the church must be informed so that each member of Christ’s body can determine whether he or she wants to continue honoring these age-old Catholic traditions or denounce them altogether.  Still others will denounce the religious participation in Christmas and Easter as spiritual ‘holy’ days, while at the same time capitalizing on the annual opportunities to share the gospel message as a result of the ignorance of the general public.  Most people in modern society are unaware of the origins of Easter and Christmas, believing one to be the day Christ rose from the dead and the other the day he was born.  The soul winner is wise and uses these holidays as gospel sharing opportunities!

 

1 Corinthians 9:22-23 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.  I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.  NASU

 

If you are looking for them, Christmas and Easter present multiple open doors to share the good news of salvation thru Jesus Christ.   For example, at Christmas the giving of gifts may include an engraved Bible with special scripture verses book marked for the recipient to read and at Easter with cards that contain salvation messages.  Often friends and family members that refuse to listen to the gospel message all year long drop their defensive posture during the festive mood of the holidays.  Imagine what an impact it would make if you gave your loved one a video or DVD of the Mel Gibson movie, ‘The Passion Of The Christ,’ or some other type of movie with a spiritual message. 

 

The discerning Christian uses whatever he or she is able to use in furthering the kingdom of heaven.  Rather than using the facts and information provided in this study concerning Easter’s corrupted beginning to give somebody a tongue lashing, why not use your knowledge wisely?  Seek the heart and mind of God thru prayer and be looking for opportunities instead of blasting people with knowledge of the pagan origins of these days.  Each individual must decide what or if they want any involvement with Easter, but the overriding motive should always be God’s love without compromising His truth. 

 

Christmas and Easter are the two primary religious holidays originating in the 3rd and the 4th centuries A.D. when pagan celebrations of the winter solstice were amalgamated with the pseudo-Christian dogma by deceivers posing as ‘church fathers’ (e.g. – men like Augustine, Jerome, Ignatius, Irenaeus, Pope Gregory I, Clement of Alexandria, Justin Martyr, Origen, Tertullian, Athanasius, etc).  The major pagan holy days for Romans began each year on December 17th as they honored Saturn, the pagan god of agriculture, in an event called Saturnalia.  

 

Saturnalia lasted 7 days, including the winter solstice, which usually occurred around December 25th (according to Roman calendar, not the Jewish calendar).   This date accounts for reason Christmas today is celebrated on December 25th.  During Saturnalia the Romans gorged themselves with food, wine, and liquor in a drunken orgy; they did no work at all and most exchanged gifts, the precursor to gift giving at Christmas season.  The celebration of Christmas and Easter by many Romans included rituals to glorify Mithra, the ancient Persian god of light. 

 

Easter as we know it today comes from the word Eastre and stems from Indo-European influence.  However, the ancient predecessors from whence the pagan goddess Eastre descended include names like Astarte, Artemis, Ishtar, etc.  The actual word, “Easter,” honors a particular Roman pagan deity named ‘Astarte,’ also known to the Babylonians and Assyrians by the name ‘Ishtar.’  Astarte is the Greek and Roman name of, ‘Ashtoreth’ the supreme female deity of the ancient Phoenician people; she is also known as the goddess of love and fruitfulness. 

 

In Europe Eastre was the Anglo-Saxon name of a Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility; so prominent was her influence the month corresponding to April was dedicated to her.  The Eastre festival was celebrated on the day of the vernal equinox; traditions associated with the festival survive in the Easter rabbit, a symbol of fertility, and in colored Easter eggs, originally painted with bright colors to represent the sunlight of spring, and used in Easter-egg rolling contests or given as gifts.  In the 4th century A.D. Constantine, the Emperor of Rome, declared that all subjects loyal to the Roman Empire would celebrate the festival of Astarte, the pre-Eastre name for the goddess of spring. 

 

One can see the pagan influence in the development of Easter; the Greek goddess Demeter, goddess of the earth returning each spring from the underworld of Hades signify the resurrection of life in the spring after the misery of winter.  Christians do not realize using colored eggs and a rabbit to symbolize their celebration of Easter resurrects an ancient practice.   To invoke the blessing of Astarte, the Greco-Roman goddess of fertility, pagan priests and priestesses used the sexually reproductive rabbit as an offering because it was an animal that generated considerable offspring.   Also, it was not uncommon for the Romans to use rabbits as part of their “offerings” to the female goddess.

 

In the Old Testament Astarte is known by a different name, which is Ashtoreth.  Ashtoreth was one of the supreme female deities and the supreme male deity was Baal.  God forbid His people Israel from any participation in the worship or veneration of Baal and Ashtoreth.  Astarte symbolized the ruling female goddess in the exact same way that Baal symbolized the ruling male-god (or god-man).  The Roman Catholic dogma of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ that developed religious perception of him as the, “God-Man’ is rooted in Baal worship in the same way Mary worship is rooted in the devotion to Ashtoreth.

 

The sex of the divinity also varied: Athtar and Astar were male deities. Ishtar of Erech (in Babylonia) was a goddess worshiped in connection with the evening star, but Ishtar of Akkad (also in Babylonia) was a god identified with the morning star.  As a goddess, Ishtar was the Great Mother, the goddess of fertility and the queen of heaven.  Her influence in Roman Catholic dogma extended into the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D. when Mary mother of Jesus was deified as the Roman Catholic, “Mother of God,” and adored in worship by the same as, “Queen of Heaven.”

 

Scholars today recognize the word ‘Astarte’ as interchangeable and even identical with various Greek goddesses, such as Artemis (the goddess of wild nature), and Aphrodite, (the goddess of love & beauty).  The Babylonian and Assyrian counterpart of Astarte was a pagan female deity known as Ishtar. Ishtar was the chief goddess of the Babylonians, Assyrians, and even the Phoenicians.  The same name becomes visible in different forms throughout the earliest Semitic ethnic peoples; in Arabia the goddess Ishtar was known as, ‘Athtar,’ and in parts of Africa such as Ethiopia Ishtar was known as, ‘Astar.’  

 

The Assyrians believed Ishtar was the goddess of hunting and war.  Archaeologists have unearthed icons etched in stone that depict the goddess Ishtar with sword, bow, and quiver of arrows.  To the Babylonians Ishtar was the goddess of love who destroyed her lover-deities such as Tammuz.

 

Many ancient peoples shared similar legends. The Phrygians believed that their omnipotent deity went to sleep at the time of the winter solstice, and they performed ceremonies with music and dancing at the spring equinox to awaken him.  The Roman Catholic Church festival of Easter adopts these pagan traditions.  Easter has absolutely no relationship to the Jewish feast of Passover, even though Christ was crucified on the eve of Passover.  Catholic influences pervade nearly every sector of Christianity and Easter is no exception.  The Catholic church would have it believed that God planned Easter to memorialize the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but this is not true and is contrary to the teachings of the New Testament.

 

When the emperor of the deteriorating Roman Empire declared the Edict of Toleration and the widespread persecution of Christians abated, Constantine convened several councils to use religion as the means by which he would attempt unification of his kingdom.  Part of his strategy included the formation of a one-world-religion common to all sects.  To accomplish this and maintain the semblance of harmony, numerous exegetical compromises were made, including the formation of the Roman Universal Church, which Constantine declared would be, ‘Christian.’

 

Knowing such an edict would cause more division than unity unless this universal faith incorporated aspects of both pagan and Christian dogma, the first order of business, so to speak, was establishing ‘holy days’ because Romans were accustomed to enjoying the festivities associated with their own holy days.  Thus in short order emerged the Easter festival commemorating Christ's resurrection, the Jewish Passover, and the awakening of Astarte, goddess of fertility and springtime. 

 

In time, a serious difference over the date of the Easter festival arose among Christians. Those of Jewish origin celebrated the resurrection immediately following the Passover festival, which, according to their Babylonian lunar calendar, fell on the evening of the full moon (the 14th day in the month of Nisan, the first month of the year); by their reckoning, Easter, from year to year, fell on different days of the week.  Christians of Gentile origin, however, wished to commemorate the resurrection on the first day of the week, Sunday; by their method, Easter occurred on the same day of the week, but from year to year it fell on different dates.  An important historical result of the difference in reckoning the date of Easter was that the Christian churches in the East, which were closer to the birthplace of the new religion and in which old traditions were strong, observed Easter according to the date of the Passover festival. The churches of the West, descendants of Greco-Roman civilization, celebrated Easter on a Sunday.

 

Constantine the Great, Roman emperor, convoked the Council of Nicaea in 325.  The council unanimously ruled that the Easter festival should be celebrated throughout the Christian world on the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox; and that if the full moon should occur on a Sunday and thereby coincide with the Passover festival, Easter should be commemorated on the Sunday following.  Coincidence of the feasts of Easter and Passover was thus avoided.  The Council of Nicaea also decided that the calendar date of Easter was to be calculated at Alexandria, then the principal astronomical center of the world.  The accurate determination of the date, however, proved an impossible task in view of the limited knowledge of the 4th-century world.  The principal astronomical problem involved was the discrepancy, called the epact, between the solar year and the lunar year.  The chief calendric problem was a gradually increasing discrepancy between the true astronomical year and the Julian calendar then in use.[1]

Easter, Passover Or The Resurrection?

 

Because the King James Version is the only Bible that uses “Easter” below is a breakdown of the original Aramaic word in Acts 12:4.  The KJV translators intentionally altered the text and in so doing corrupted the scriptures (see below):

 

Acts 12:4 And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.  KJV

 

The Aramaic word mistranslated as ‘Easter,’ is, “tó Páscha.”  Literally this Aramaic word should read, “the (tó) Passover (Páscha).”  Below are two different Aramaic word dictionary definitions of Páscha:

 

Páscha = NT: 3957 páscha (pas'-khah); of Aramaic origin; compare OT:6453

1.      The Passover - the meal, the day & the festival.

2.      The Passover - the special sacrifices connected with it.[2]

 

Páscha = NT: 3957; páscha, to; literally = “a passing over”

1.      The paschal sacrifice.

2.      The paschal lamb, 2 Chronicles 30:17 f.

3.      The paschal supper: Matthew 26:19.

4.      The paschal festival, the feast of Passover, Matthew 26:2[3]

 

Everywhere else in both Old Testament and New Testament scriptures this Aramaic word “Páscha” is always properly translated as, “the Passover.”  For example, the New American Standard Updated version of Acts 12:4 reads as follows:

 

Acts 12:4 When he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people. NASU

 

The Passover was a Hebrew feast day ordained by God under the terms and statutes of the Law given by God to Moses.  It represented remembrance of the night the death angel passed over the houses of Israelites whose doorways were sprinkled with blood of a sacrificial lamb.

Once Jesus Christ shed his own blood he purchased the salvation for all that believe in God thru his redemption, having their hearts and conscious sprinkled clean by one sacrifice (Exodus 12:1-27; Mark 14:1; Hebrews 10:14-22)

 

Hebrews 10:14, 18-19, 22 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified…Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.  Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus… let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience. NASU

 

Christians sometimes argue about what day Easter should be celebrated; some use the modern calendar, and some use the Julian calendar, but the scripture does not agree with either position.  First of all, Easter is not a precept taught in scripture and should therefore be purged from our spiritual vocabulary of worship.

 

Second, those who insist Easter tradition be maintained and practiced as a memorial of the Passover because it was the day that Jesus shed his blood and because it coincides with his subsequent resurrection are hard-pressed to substantiate their position from scripture.  There are NO feast days to be honored or obeyed as part of the new covenant with God because all days and observance of days according to the Law of Moses have been done away.  This is ESPECIALLY the case with Passover because those who seek to reenact Passover again and again knowingly are doing a disservice to Jesus, who paid with his own blood one sacrifice for all. 

 

The New Testament teaches us that CHRIST IS OUR PASSOVER not Easter, not the Jewish Feast of Passover, but JESUS CHRIST.  In the apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church he uses the Old Testament Passover to symbolically describe exactly HOW believers in the New Testament Christian churches ought to be observing it.  If you read the passage below in its entirety, there can be no mistake whatsoever that we as believers do not commemorate the resurrection as a “holy day” but rather, as a HOLY LIFE.  He punctuates this statement by exhorting and rebuking the leadership of the church in Corinth who were tolerating immoral persons and allowing them to join in worship.

 

1 Corinthians 5:6-13 About the condition of your church your boasting is not good indeed, it is most unseemly and entirely out of place.  Do you not know that just a little leaven will ferment the whole lump of dough?  Purge (clean out) the old leaven that you may be fresh, new dough, still uncontaminated as you are, for Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.  Therefore, let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with leaven of vice and malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of purity, nobility, honor and sincerity and unadulterated truth.  I wrote you in my previous letter not to associate closely and habitually with unchaste, impure people-- Not meaning of course that you must altogether shun the immoral people of this world, or the greedy graspers and cheats and thieves or idolaters, since otherwise you would need to get out of the world and human society altogether!  But now I write to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of Christian brother if he is known to be guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater whose soul is devoted to any object that usurps the place of God, or is a person with a foul tongue railing, abusing, reviling, slandering, or is a drunkard or a swindler or a robber.  No you must not so much as eat with such a person.  What business of mine is it and what right have I to judge outsiders?  Is it not those inside the church upon whom you are to pass disciplinary judgment passing censuring sentence on them as the facts require?  God alone sits in judgment on those who are outside.  Drive out that wicked one from among you expel him from your church.   AMP

 

Paul is not being mean spirited because he commands the Corinthians to purge the wicked man from their midst, but instead is being a responsible shepherd and protecting the flock.  What is noteworthy in his exhortation is that Paul uses the former Jewish practice of purging leaven out of homes in preparation for the Passover feast to represent pragmatic purging of immoral people from the assembly who defile the true Passover by their sinful behavior.  In so doing we find how God wants us to honor His son’s propitiation for sin by living a holy life in both corporeal and individual ways.

 

Sadly, Easter has grown in popularity throughout the ages, but true believers understand the resurrection is not commemorated or even remembered one day of the year, but walking in newness of life by the strength of the same power that raised Jesus from the dead!

 

1 Peter 1:1a-9 To those… who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in fullest measure.  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. NAS

 

A believer should rejoice every day of the year, not just one special day.  Only those weak in the faith put their hope in the Easter celebration.  There are some Christians that honor this day because they truly believe it is special, and as such, they should not be upbraided or castigated for their faith.  Instead, those who are mature should bear with them weak in the faith, and pray for them, and even disciple them into the truth.  One man regards the day as holy, another does not, but let each man be fully persuaded in his own mind before God to do what is right.

 

Romans 14:4-9 Who are you to judge the servant of another?  To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.  One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike.  Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.  He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.  For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.  For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.  NASU

 

SELAH

 

 


 

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[1] Microsoft ® Encarta ® Reference Library 2002. © 1993-2001 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

[2] Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.

 

[3] From Thayer's Greek Lexicon, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 2000 by Biblesoft