Did Early Christians Celebrate Easter? Where Did Easter Come From?

By COGwriter

Although most who profess Christianity now celebrate it, Easter-Sunday was not observed by the second century Christians in Asia Minor. They observed Passover.

Although the Bible does mention that Jesus was resurrected, it never once suggests that it be observed as some type of holiday. Jesus specifically mentioned that Christians were to observe the Passover as He did (Luke 22:14-20). Since few who profess Christianity observe the Passover, what happened?

Greco-Roman Changes

Beginning with possibly Telesphorus or possibly Hyginus or maybe Sixtus (there are no contemporaneous records, only an unclear report 5-6 decades later written by Irenaeus), what is now called Easter began to be observed in Rome. First, it was apparently a change in date of Passover from the 14th of Nisan to a Sunday. This is believed to have happened because there was a rebellion by Jews and that any distancing between Jews and Christians seemed physically advantageous (at least to some in Rome and certain ones in Jerusalem). I suspect they made this change because their fear of death was greater than their fear to violate God's word.

In the area of Jerusalem, the Bar Kokhba revolt resulted in Jerusalem being renamed Ælia Capitolina. It was an area that compromised.

Notice comments from Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant scholars:

The shortest-lived Apostolic Church is that of Jerusalem. In 130 the Holy City was destroyed by Hadrian, and a new town, Ælia Capitolina, erected on its site. (Wilhelm J. Transcribed by Donald J. Boon. Apostolic Succession. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume I. Copyright © 1907 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York)

In 135 AD the Roman emperor Hadrian builds on the ruins of Jerusalem a new Roman city and names it Aelia Capitolina and permits the Christians to come back. However the Jewish are not permitted to come in town (The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem. http://www.holylight.gr/patria/enpatria.html viewed 11/30/07)

But the Church of Ælia Capitolina was very differently constituted from the Church of Pella and the Church of Jerusalem…not a few doubtless accepted the conqueror’s terms, content to live henceforth as Gentiles…in the new city of Hadrian.  But there were others who hung to the law of their forefathers…(Lightfoot, Joseph Barber.  Saint Paul's Epistle to the Galatians: A Revised Text with Introduction, Notes and Dissertations. Published by Macmillan, 1881. Original from Harvard University. Digitized Oct 16, 2006, pp. 317,)

While it is now believed that Ælia Capitolina was truly erected in 135 (as opposed to 130 since the Bar Kokhba revolt was from 132-135 A.D.), this quote demonstrates that even Catholic scholars understand that no real apostolic succession occurred after Hadrian’s takeover of Jerusalem during the 2nd century. Notice the statement from the Greek Orthodox that “the Jewish are not permitted to come in to town.” That is correct, but only in a limited sense. It was not just the Jews; it was also those who kept “Jewish” (biblical) practices like Passover on the 14th that were not permitted to come into Jerusalem after its 135 A.D. takeover.

The Church in Pella had faithful Christians, and the group known sometimes as Nazarenes claimed to have been in Pella. But they, after Pella, had to leave Jerusalem, then renamed Alia Capitolina as they would not compromise.

Notice what the historian E. Gibbon reported:

The emperor founded, under the name of Alia Capitolina, a new city on Mount Sion, to which he gave the privileges of a colony; and denouncing the severest penalties against any of the Jewish people who should dare to approach its precincts, he fixed a vigilant garrison of a Roman cohort to enforce the execution of his orders. The Nazarenes had only one way left to escape the common proscription, and the force of truth was on this occasion assisted by the influence of temporal advantages.

They elected Marcus for their bishop, a prelate of the race of the Gentiles, and most probably a native either of Italy or of some of the Latin provinces. At his persuasion the most considerable part of the congregation renounced the Mosaic law, in the practice of which they had persevered above a century. By this sacrifice of their habits and prejudices they purchased a free admission into the colony of Hadrian...

When the name and honours of the church of Jerusalem had been restored to Mount Sion the crimes of heresy and schism were imputed to the obscure remnant of the Nazarenes which refused to accompany their Latin bishop. (Gibbon E. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume I. ca. 1776-1788. The Modern Library, NY, pp. 389-391)

Samuele Bacchiocchi noted that the change to Easter-Sunday and to a weekly Sunday was due to persecution (the new Gentile hierarchy he is referring to are Greek and/or Latin bishops in Jerusalem, which took over after the rebellion was crushed):

The actual introduction of Easter-Sunday appears to have occurred earlier in Palestine after Emperor Hadrian ruthlessly crushed the Barkokeba revolt (A.D. 132-135)...

The fact that the Passover controversy arose when Emperor Hadrian adopted new repressive measures against Jewish religious practices suggests that such measures influenced the new Gentile hierarchy to change the date of Passover from Nisan 14 to the following Sunday (Easter-Sunday) in order to show separation and differentiation from the Jews and the Jewish Christians...

A whole body of Against the Jews literature was produced by leading Fathers who defamed the Jews as a people and emptied their religious beliefs and practices of any historical value. Two major causalities of the anti-Jewish campaign were Sabbath and Passover. The Sabbath was changed to Sunday and Passover was transferred to Easter-Sunday.

Scholars usually recognize the anti-Judaic motivation for the repudiation of the Jewish reckoning of Passover and adoption of Easter-Sunday instead. Joachim Jeremias attributes such a development to "the inclination to break away from Judaism." In a similar vein, J.B. Lightfoot explains that Rome and Alexandria adopted Easter-Sunday to avoid "even the semblance of Judaism" (Bacchiocchi S. God's Festival in Scripture and History. Biblical Perspectives. Befriend Springs (MI), 1995, pp. 101,102,103).

J.B. Lightfoot himself specifically wrote:

…the Churches of Asia Minor…regulated their Easter festival by the Jewish Passover without regard to the day of the week, but…those of Rome and Alexandria and Gaul observed another rule; thus avoiding even the semblance of Judaism (Lightfoot, Joseph Barber.  Saint Paul's Epistle to the Galatians: A Revised Text with Introduction, Notes and Dissertations. Published by Macmillan, 1881. Original from Harvard University. Digitized Oct 16, 2006, pp. 317, 331).

It is likely that if Telesphorus made this change at the time to attempt to distance himself from the Jews in Rome. If he was the one who did it, and if he thought that this would spare his life, he was wrong as he was later killed by the Roman authorities (circa 136 A.D.). On the other hand, it is perhaps more likely that Hyginus, who was also Greek decided to introduce the Passover Sunday tradition, perhaps to decrease the wrath of the anti-Jewish Roman authorities. Since Anicetus' account (see below) claimed that this practice was began by presbyters who preceded him, it would need to have been no later than the Greeks Telesphorus or Hyginus, as they were followed by Pius who was then followed by Anicetus (it probably did not originate with Sixtus as he preceded Telesphorus, he was not Greek, and he was dead circa 125 A.D.).

Irenaeus claimed that Anicetus of Rome (who argued with Polycarp) was following the practices previous Roman bishops, beginning with Sixtus, as Irenaeus around 180 A.D. wrote:

And the presbyters preceding Sorer in the government of the Church which thou dost now rule--I mean, Anicetus and Pius, Hyginus and Telesphorus, and Sixtus--did neither themselves observe it [after that fashion], nor permit those with them to do so (Irenaeus. FRAGMENTS FROM THE LOST WRITINGS OF IRENAEUS. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Excerpted from Volume I of The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, editors); American Edition copyright © 1885. Electronic version copyright © 1997 by New Advent, Inc).

But because Sixtus (if he existed) was Roman and the change appeared to be a Greek one, Sixtus is not likely to have been the one to initiate a Sunday Passover.

Around 155 A.D. Polycarp of Smyrna went to Rome to deal with various heretics and he tried to persuade the bishop not to switch Passover to Easter Sunday. Irenaeus records this:

And when the blessed Polycarp was sojourning in Rome in the time of Anicetus, although a slight controversy had arisen among them as to certain other points…For neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp to forego the observance [in his own way], inasmuch as these things had been always observed by John the disciple of our Lord, and by other apostles with whom he had been conversant; nor, on the other hand, could Polycarp succeed in persuading Anicetus to keep [the observance in his way], for he maintained that he was bound to adhere to the usage of the presbyters who preceded him. And in this state of affairs they held fellowship with each other; and Anicetus conceded to Polycarp in the Church the celebration of the Eucharist, by way of showing him respect (Irenaeus. FRAGMENTS FROM THE LOST WRITINGS OF IRENAEUS. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Excerpted from Volume I of The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, editors); American Edition copyright © 1885. Electronic version copyright © 1997 by New Advent, Inc).

The Eastern Orthodox realize that Passover was originally observed at night as one of their priests has written:

Our earliest sources for the annual celebration of the Christian Pascha come to us from the second century...The feast, however, must have originated in the apostolic period...According to the earliest documents, Pascha is described as a nocturnal celebration...(Calivas, Alkiviadis C. The Origins of Pascha and Great Week - Part I. Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1992. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith8504 viewed 11/04/2011)

Over time, instead of being a holy day in memorial to Christ's sacrifice, Easter became a resurrection holiday.

This is known by scholars:

The first Christians celebrated the death of Jesus with a Pascha meal (eucharist) on the lunar date of the Jewish Passover (note 1 Cor. 5:7-8).

At first there was no annual celebration of the resurrection. Eventually, in the gentile world, the day of resurrection was added to the Pascha festival. That day was Sunday. At the Council of Nicea (325) it was ruled that Easter Sunday would be celebrated on the Sunday immediately following that full moon which came after the vernal equinox. At the same time the Council decided that the vernal equinox would be March 21 in the Julian calendar (Eusebius, Vit. Const. 3.18). (Synder GF. Irish Jesus, Roman Jesus: the formation of early Irish Christianity. Trinity Press International, 2002, p. 183)

So, for compromisers, the Passover changed. And it changed a lot. Because they held it on Sunday, some of the compromisers quickly decided to teach that Jesus was resurrected on a Sunday as partial justification (in their view) for the change. But this resulted in major changes to the observance of Passover by those who held to the Greco-Roman position.

Those who think that the compromise was only small and should have been acceptable to God should remember that the Apostle Paul warned:

7...Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump (Galatians 5:7-9).

Paul was warning Christians that they should not allow a little compromise with the world (apparently including arguments of friends/acquaintances) should affect them. Paul and the early Christians kept Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. They did not keep Easter.

The Orthodox View

The Orthodox Church reports this brief explanation of the Victor controversy in one of its timelines:

193 A.D. - Council of Rome, presided over by Bishop Victor, condemns the celebration of Pascha on Nisan 14, and addresses a letter to Polycrates of Ephesus and the Churches in Asia.

193 A.D. - Council of Ephesus, presided over by Bishop Polycrates, and attended by several bishops throughout Asia, reject the authority of Victor of Rome, and keep the Asian paschal tradition (Markou, Stavros L. K. An Orthodox Christian Historical Timeline. Copyright © 2003 OrthodoxFaith.com).

What Was Next?

Many decided to make the Roman/Greek change, with probably those in Alexandria the most supportive. Those in Asia Minor mainly refused to switch Passover to Sunday.

Even over a century later, there still were those, even amongst the Romans that wanted to observe it on the 14th of Nisan. This was distressing to Emperor Constantine and had this as an agenda item for the Council of Nicea that he had convened in 325 A.D.:

...the emperor...convened a council of 318 bishops...in the city of Nicea...They passed certain ecclesiastical canons at the council besides, and at the same time decreed in regard to the Passover that there must be one unanimous concord on the celebration of God's holy and supremely excellent day. For it was variously observed by people... (Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47-80), De Fide). Section VI, Verses 1,1 and 1,3. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, pp.471-472). A Sunday date was selected, instead of Nisan 14 (which can fall on any day of the week).

According to Eusebius' Life of Constantine, Book III chapter 18, the Roman emperor Constantine:

Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd; for we have received from our Saviour a different way.

I do not recall Jesus indicating that Jews were detestable (He was a Jew) or that He changed the date of Passover. But apparently sun-worshipping Constantine felt otherwise. And the Sunday observance is now known as Easter. But because sun-worshiping practices and the avoidance of practice that were considered to "Jewish" that is really why Easter is observed when it is. Furthermore, Constantine's comment is consistent with why another practice is associated with Easter:

Ham became popular among early Christians as part of their unifying tradition as some other religions do not eat pork or ham. (http://www.kitchendaily.com/read/easter-dinner-ideas-and-the-story-behind-traditional-easter-menu?icid=maing-grid10%7Chtmlws-main-bb%7Cdl35%7Csec1_lnk2%26pLid%3D289309 viewed 03/28/13)

The reality is that the compromisers who kept Easter-Sunday wanted to avoided possibly being considered Jewish or part of the faithful Christians so intentionally added eating ham as a direct insult. Yet, the Bible NEVER mentions eating ham as part of any biblical holiday and instead teaches that it should not be consumed (see ). Those who eat ham on Easter should ask themselves why they intentionally do something that Jesus and the apostles would not do.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

1170 At the Council of Nicea in 325, all the Churches agreed that Easter, the Christian Passover, should be celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon (14 Nisan) after the vernal equinox (Catechism of the Catholic Church. Imprimatur Potest +Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Doubleday, NY 1995, p. 332).

Notice that the Catholics CLAIM that Easter is supposed to be Passover--many do not realize that. Further, however, it needs to be understood that Constantine's and Council declarations did not stop everyone from properly observing Passover (it also should be noted that "all the Churches" did not agree as no bishop from any the faithful churches attended this Council--for more details see article on Passover).

Because many did not accept this Sunday decree, a later Roman Emperor decreed the death penalty:

Edicts of Theodosius against the heretics, A.D. 380-394...Theodosius...decreed that...by the death of the offender; and the same capital punishment was inflicted on the Audians, or Quartodecimans, who should dare to perpetrate the atrocious crime of celebrating on an improper day the festival of Easter {Passover} (Gibbon E. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume III, Chapter XXVII. ca. 1776-1788).

Is killing those that followed the example of Jesus and John to observe the Passover on the 14th instead of Easter Sunday a sign of a true Christian leader or a sign of supporting antichrist?

Another Roman Catholic supporter wrote this about the Council of Nicea a few decades later:

Three hundred Fathers or even more gathered together in the land of Bithynia and ordained this by law; yet you disdain their decrees. You must choose one of two courses: either you charge them with ignorance for their want of exact knowledge on this matter, or you charge them with cowardice because they were not ignorant, but played the hypocrite and betrayed the truth. When you do not abide by what they decreed, this is exactly the choice you must make. But all the events of the Council make it clear that they showed great wisdom and courage at that time. The article of faith they set forth at the Council show how wise they were...At that time the whole synodal gathering, welded together from these champions, along with their definition of what Christians must believe, also passed a decree that they celebrate the paschal feast in harmony together. They refused to betray their faith in those most difficult times [of persecution]; would they sink to pretense and deceit on the question of the Easter observance? (5) Look what you do when you condemn Fathers so great, so courageous, so wise (John Chrysostom. Homily III Against the Jews, III:3,4-5. Preached at Antioch, Syria in September, 386 AD).

So it is an article of faith that Roman Catholic bishops had the authority to change the scriptural date of Passover and make it an Easter celebration, even though Constantine said part of why he wanted it to have nothing in common with those he called the detestable Jewish crowd?

But this was simply not the faith of the true second century Christians in Asia Minor as Polycrates testified. The last words of his response to Roman bishop Victor about changing the date of Passover to Easter Sunday was:

I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said ' We ought to obey God rather than man.' (Polycrates. Letter to Victor. As quoted by Eusebius. Church History. Book V, Chapter 24) .

So, those who held to the original faith and traditions from the Bible would not accept the change.

Easter is Not a Biblical or Christian Term

Other than Teutonic languages like English and German, most other languages use some version of the word "Passover," like "pascha," to describe their observances.

Easter itself is not a Christian term but comes from paganism:

The English term, according to the Ven. Bede (De temporum ratione, I, v), relates to Estre, a Teutonic goddess of the rising light of day and spring, which deity...Anglo-Saxon, eâster, eâstron; Old High German, ôstra, ôstrara, ôstrarûn; German, Ostern. April was called easter-monadh. (Holweck F. G. Transcribed by John Wagner and Michael T. Barrett. Easter. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume V. Copyright © 1909 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, May 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York)

ISHTAR was one of the most prominent of the deities of the Accadian and Assyrian Pantheon. Se was the Assyrian goddess of Love. She was the...Ashtoreth of the Jews or Hebrews. She is the planetary Venus, and in general features corresponds with the classical goddess of Love. Her name Ishtar is that by which she was known in Assyria, and the same name prevailed, with slight modifications, among the Semite nations generally. In Babylonia the goddess was known as Nana...

She may be identified with Eostre of the Germans, or Easter. To this goddess our Saxon or German ancestors sacrificed in April, which was therefore by them styled...Eostur-monath, and from thence arose our word Easter, which the Saxons retained after their conversion to Christianity, so that our Easter-day is nothing more nor less than Ishtar's day...The name became attached by association of ideas to the Christian festival of the Resurrection (of Christ), which happened at the time of the passover...The English name Easter, and the German Ostern, are derived from the name of the Teutonic goddess Ostera (Anglo-Saxon Eostre), whose festival was celebrated by the ancient Saxons with peculiar solemnities in the month of April; and for which, as in many other instances, the first Romish missionaries substituted the paschal feast." The Council of Nice "ordained (A.D. 325) that it should be kept always on a Sunday." Thus we find that it was originally the festival of Ishtar, and occurred on the Sabatu of Elul, or the festival Sabbath of the Assyrians, which occurred in August or harvest time; and that it afterwards became united with the passover or paschal feast of the Jews, and finally adopted by the Christian Church as the Easter Sabbath, changing the date to the spring or seed time, or in April from the harvest month or August. Among the Assyrians it was the feast day of Ishtar and Nergal...

The Phoenician name of Ishtar was Astarte, the later Mendaean form of which was Ashtar. She was called Jeremiah, "the queen of heaven," Jer. vii, 18, and xliv. 17-25...she was sometimes called "the goddess of the chase," corresponding to Diana as well as Venus, the goddess of love. Mr. George Rawlinson says: "The worship of Ishtar was widespread, and her shrines were numerous. She is often called the "queen of Babylon"...It may be suspected that her symbol was the naked female form...(Hamilton LLC note. Ishtar and Izdubar, the epic of Babylon; or, The Babylonian goddess of love and the hero and warrior king, restored in mod. verse by L.L.C. Hamilton. 1884 Original from Oxford University Digitized Jun 19, 2007, pp. 207-208)

Paganism...it was precisely in these cults that the worst perversions existed. Ishtar, Astarte, and Cybele had their male and female prostitutes, their Galli: Josiah had to cleanse the temple of Yahweh of their booths (cf. the Qedishim and Kelabim, Deuteronomy 23:17; 2 Samuel 23:7; cf. 1 Samuel 14:24; 15:12), and even in the Greek world, where prostitution was not else regarded as religious, Eryx and Corinth at least were contaminated by Semitic influence, which Greece could not correct. (Martindale, Cyril Charles. "Paganism." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 17 Feb. 2014 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11388a.htm>)

Ishtar is pronounced about the same as the English term Easter. Perhaps it should be mentioned that there was an Ishtar gate in ancient Babylon, hence there are a variety of connections between paganism/Babylon and Easter.

Basically, the adoption of Easter was the result of compromise with paganism. Some aspects of the adoption of its non-biblical symbols has been obscured, but some legends may cast some information about it.

Here is one legend about the Easter egg and Easter:

According to ancient Babylonian legend, it is claimed that Ishtar caused the fish-goddess Atargatis to cause a great egg to fall in the Euphrates river where fish pushed it to shore and Semĩramis was miraculously born. The Easter egg - Ishtar egg - does not represent the stone rolled away from the tomb like the medieval church said it did...

The English word “Easter,” however, corresponding to the German Oster, reveals Christianity’s indebtedness to the Teutonic tribes of Central Europe. Christianity, when it reached the Teutons, incorporated in its celebration of the great Christian feast day many of the heathen rites and customs which accompanied their observance of the spring festival. That the festival of the resurrection occurred in the spring, that it celebrated the triumph of life over death, made it easy for the church to identify with this occasion the most joyous festival of the Teutons, held in honor of the death of winter, the birth of a new year and the return of the sun. (Deschesne D. Ishtar The Origin of the Easter Tradition. Fort Fairfield Journal ı April 12, 2006, p. 9)

Notice another view about Easter eggs:

According to Babylonian legend, a huge egg fell from heaven, landing in the Euphrates river. The goddess Ishtar broke out of this egg. Later the feature of "egg nesting" was introduced--a nest were the egg could be incubated until it hatched. A “wicker” or reed basket was used to nest the Ishtar egg (hence the Easter egg basket.)

The Easter egg hunt is based on the notion that if anyone found Ishtar's egg while she was being “reborn,”she would bestow a blessing upon that lucky person. Because this was a joyous Spring festival, eggs were colored in bright Spring (pastel) colors.

The Easter Bunny. Among the Celts, custom dictated that "the goddess" totem would lay eggs for the good children to eat...Eostre's hare was the shape that the Celts imagined on the surface of the full moon...

Since Ishtar or Eostre, was a goddess of fertility--and because rabbits procreate quickly--the rabbit became associated with the sexual act, and the egg became a symbol of "birth" and "renewal." (Chapman TL. God's Law of Love: The Perfect Law of Liberty Jehovah's Ten Commands Still Apply Today. iUniverse, 2010, p. 133)

As there are various legends (including the idea that Ishtar was reborn every Spring from an egg) and ideas, the reality is that the Easter egg has a non-Christian origin. Some have claimed that the Greco-Romans adopted the colored egg because some associated with them in Mesopotamia stained eggs red supposedly to symbolize Jesus' blood--but the Bible uses wine as a symbol of Christ's blood (Matthew 26:27-29; Luke 22:20), not colored eggs.

The Catholic Encyclopedia makes various claims and admissions about Easter:

Easter is the principal feast of the ecclesiastical year. Leo I (Sermo xlvii in Exodum) calls it the greatest feast (festum festorum), and says that Christmas is celebrated only in preparation for Easter...The connection between the Jewish and the Christian Pasch explains the movable character of this feast. Easter has no fixed date, like Christmas, because the 15th of Nisan of the Semitic calendar was shifting from date to date on the Julian calendar. Since Christ, the true Paschal Lamb, had been slain on the very day when the Jews, in celebration of their Passover, immolated the figurative lamb, the Jewish Christians in the Orient followed the Jewish method...For this observance they claimed the authority of St. John and St. Philip.

In the rest of the empire another consideration predominated. Every Sunday of the year was a commemoration of the Resurrection of Christ... Because the Sunday after 14 Nisan was the historical day of the Resurrection, at Rome this Sunday became the Christian feast of Easter...

Easter eggs

...The symbolic meaning of a new creation of mankind by Jesus risen from the dead was probably an invention of later times. The custom may have its origin in paganism, for a great many pagan customs, celebrating the return of spring, gravitated to Easter. The egg is the emblem of the germinating life of early spring...

The Easter rabbit

The Easter Rabbit lays the eggs, for which reason they are hidden in a nest or in the garden. The rabbit is a pagan symbol and has always been an emblem of fertility (Simrock, Mythologie, 551)...

Men and women

On Easter Monday the women had a right to strike their husbands, on Tuesday the men struck their wives... In the Neumark (Germany) on Easter Day the men servants whip the maid servants with switches; on Monday the maids whip the men. They secure their release with Easter eggs. These customs are probably of pre-Christian origin (Reinsberg-Düringsfeld, Das festliche Jahr, 118).

The Easter fire

The Easter Fire is lit on the top of mountains (Easter mountain, Osterberg) and must be kindled from new fire, drawn from wood by friction (nodfyr); this is a custom of pagan origin in vogue all over Europe, signifying the victory of spring over winter. The bishops issued severe edicts against the sacrilegious Easter fires (Conc. Germanicum, a. 742, c.v.; Council of Lestines, a. 743, n. 15), but did not succeed in abolishing them everywhere. The Church adopted the observance into the Easter ceremonies...

(Holweck F. G. Transcribed by John Wagner and Michael T. Barrett. Easter. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume V. Copyright © 1909 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, May 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Thus, the Romans admit that the name Easter is the name of a pagan goddess, many of its practices are of pagan origin, and that the churches in Asia Minor (which they call the Orient) continued to observe Passover on the date that the Jews did, Nisan 14.

The Church of Rome adopted many of the customs of Easter, and considered the eggs as the emblem of the resurrection. Notice the prayer blessing of Pope Paul V, about 1610, on Easter eggs, which, in English, reads thus:

"Bless, O Lord! we beseech thee, this thy creature of eggs, that it may become a wholesome sustenance to thy faithful servants, eating it in thankfulness to thee on account of the resurrection of the Lord." (Easter Eggs. Donahoe's Magazine, Volume 5, T.B. Noonan, 1881. Original from the University of Wisconsin - Madison Digitized Jul 10, 2009, p. 558)

But the Bible gives no such teachings about the use of eggs.

Easter was not just a sunrise goddess:

Ishtar, she was both fertility and a war goddess. ... Easter or Astarte is in effect the same worship of an old Babylonian sex cult instituted by Semiramis the warrior queen who had a lust for blood (Kush H. Faces of the Hamitic People. Xlibris Corporation, 2010, p. 164)

Ishtar was seen as the personification of the planet Venus, and together with Shamash, the sun god, and Sin, the moon god, she formed an astral triad. (Littleton CS. Gods, Goddesses, and Mythology, Volume 6. Marshall Cavendish, 2005 p. 760)

So, Ishtar/Easter essentially was a warring sex/fertility goddess and her name suggests that lust (sexual and/or for membership) was behind much associated with Easter. The vast consumption of candy in most cultures associated with Easter suggests that perhaps lust is still a factor about the holiday today.

The Bible itself also condemns certain practices, now associated with Easter, such as hot Easter buns/cakes (Jeremiah 7:18), the worship towards the sun in the east (Ezekiel 8:15-18), and the worship of Astarte/Ishtar/Ashtaroth (other spellings of the word Easter).

Even Protestant commentaries note that:

Jeremiah 7...Cakes to the queen of heaven (v. 18). Probably a reference to the Babylonian fertility-goddess Ishtar, goddess of the planet Venus (from The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1962 by Moody Press).

Jeremiah 7... What the sin is with which they are here charged-it is idolatry, v. 18. Their idolatrous respects are paid to the queen of heaven, the moon, either in an image or in the original, or both. They worshipped it probably under the name of Ashtaroth, or some other of their goddesses (from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.).

Thus, both Catholic and Protestant scholars acknowledge that Easter/Ishtar/Ashtaroth worship contains pagan elements.

Notice what the Encyclopedia Britannica stated in 1910:

There is no indication of the observance of the Easter festival in the New Testament, or in the writings of the apostolic Fathers...The first Christians continued to observe the Jewish festivals, though in a new spirit, as commemorations of events which those festivals had foreshadowed. Thus the Passover, with a new conception added to it of Christ as the true Paschal Lamb and the first fruits from the dead, continued to be observed (Easter. In: The Encyclopaedia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information Edition: 11 Published by Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1910 Item notes: v. 8 Original from Harvard University Digitized Jul 24, 2008, p. 828).

The biblical Passover has to do with the Lamb of God being killed for our sins--and early Christians kept that, not Easter.

The Easter festival is full of syncretism. It has combined many customs of heathen/pagan/demonic origin with the Christian faith. Hear what Paul wrote about this type of practice:

19 What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? 20 Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord's table and of the table of demons. (1 Corinthians 10:19-21)

(More on the above can be found in the article Marcus, the Marcosians, & Mithraism: Developers of the Eucharist?)

Easter, which is named after the pagan goddess Ishtar/Astarte/Eostre, has to do with a fertility festival involving rabbits and looking to the east in early morning as pagans did. Those who actually keep Passover can have a much better understanding of the plan of God than those who follow supposedly "Christianized" pagan holidays.

What Do Rabbits Have to Do With It?

Rabbits are highly involved with Easter celebrations. In the USA, people often buy bunnies for their children, which according to various news articles causes problems as many of the children are not actually capable and willing to actually take care of them.

But that is beside the point.

The point is that rabbits are not mentioned directly or indirectly in the New Testament. Since they are not mentioned, there is no way that they were intended by God to be part of Christian celebrations.

As mentioned earlier, The Catholic Encyclopedia admits that the "Easter Rabbit...The rabbit is a pagan symbol and has always been an emblem of fertility."

Here are more details about that from Roger Meyers:

Just where did the Easter Bunny come from?...

Unut was the Egyptian hare goddess (though she was originally depicted as a snake). Sculptures were discovered in the Men-Kau-Re Valley temple in Egypt which depicted King Men-Kau-Re (grandson of Khufu), the goddess Hathor (the celestial mother of the sun calf), and Hermopolite, or the hare nome, wearing the hare standard. Upper Egyptian nomes, or provinces, were usually represented in the form of a standard. There is an Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol for the hare. The Egyptian word for hare was un which meant “to open” or “the opener.” The hare symbol may have been used for the word “to open” because a hare is born with its eyes open. The hare symbolized the opening of the new year and the beginning of new life in the spring at the vernal equinox.

The mythology of ancient people spread all over the world. The Saxon goddess Eostre is synonymous with the Phoenician goddess Astarte, goddess of the moon and the measurer of time. Associating the hare with the moon is thought to be related to the hare’s gestation period of one month, and to the hare’s nocturnal feeding. The association of rabbits and the moon can be found all over the world. In China, figures of hares are commonly found at Chinese moon festivals, where they represent fertility. The “hare in the moon” is far more prevalent than the “man in the moon.”

In ancient Anglo-Saxon myth, the goddess Eostre/Ostara/Astarte, etc., is associated with the spring and fertility, the moon, and also personifiies greeting the rising sun. To amuse children, Eostre changed her pet bird into a hare that layed brightly colored eggs which the goddess gave to the children. Saxons held the pagan festival for Eostra on the vernal equinox, the beginning of spring.

The Easter Bunny came to America in the 1700s by immigrants from Germany where it had been called “Osterhase” – Oster or Oschter being German for Easter (derived from Eostra, Ishtar, etc.), and hase being the German word for hare. (Meyers R. Easter Bunny or Eostre Hare. Commentary, April 19, 2011)

So, it should be clear that rabbits have to do with pagan traditions, not biblical ones. And, if we go back to the Old Testament, the only references to rabbits are that they are unclean and should not be eaten:

6 the hare, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; 7 and the swine, though it divides the hoof, having cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. 8 Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch. They are unclean to you. (Leviticus 11:6-8, NKJV)

7 But of them that chew the cud, but divide not the hoof, you shall not eat, such as the camel, the hare, and the cherogril: because they chew the cud, but divide not the hoof, they shall be unclean to you. 8 The swine also, because it divideth the hoof, but cheweth not the cud, shall be unclean, their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch. (Deuteronomy 14:7-8, Douay-Rheims).

Notice that the only two passages from the Old Testament that mention hares (a type of rabbit) state that they are unclean and that there carcasses are not even to be touched (for more information on unclean animals and Christianity, please see The New Testament Church and Unclean Meats.). The exalting of rabbits on a day supposedly to celebrate Jesus makes no sense from a biblical perspective--it clearly came from pagan influence.

There is simply nothing in the Bible that hints that rabbits should be part of celebrations for those who wish to follow God.

Was There Any Type of Early Sunday Observance?

Ronald Dart of Christian Education Ministries noted that there was a Jewish/Christian observance on the Sunday after the Passover crucifixion:

On the evening after the Sabbath was over, the very first sheaf of grain of the early harvest was cut from the ground. It was prepared that night by threshing the barley from the chaff and then parching it over a fire. The next morning, the priest lifted an omer of the grain to God as the presentation of the firstfruits of the harvest. Now, compare this to Christian theology of the resurrection.

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).

It is clear enough that, in referring to “Christ the firstfruits, Paul is referring directly to that first sheaf offered on the morning after the Sabbath by the priest. His wording leaves no room for doubt. James will refer to this as well: “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (James 1:18). What we see here is Christ as the first of the firstfruits in the resurrection, with the remainder of the firstfruits to follow at his coming.

So this particular Sunday was important to both Jews and Christians. To Jews, it was the day of the offering of the firstfruits, the first day of the seven weeks to the Feast of Firstfruits. To Christians, it was the morning of Jesus’ presentation to the Father and of his first appearances to his disciples after his resurrection from the dead. And it was the first day of the seven weeks to Pentecost.

For the first Christians, the symbolism of the Jewish observance was seen to point directly to Christ. The connection was clear and strong from the start. The early church had not adopted a calendar different from that of the Jewish majority in the first century, the calendar was crucial, because it defined the time of observance of the feasts. There is not a word in the New Testament to suggest any change from the Jewish observance...so the comparison between liturgy and events was, to them, even more apparent.

Now consider this carefully. This Sunday was celebrated early on as the day of Christ’s first appearances after his resurrection. It was an anniversary that appeared on the Jewish calendar on the first Sunday after Passover every year. As explained in the last chapter, every place in the New Testament where you see the expression “The first day of the week” it is referring, not to a Sunday, but to a singular day of the year. The first day of the seven Sabbaths or weeks leading up to Pentecost. It is an annual, not a weekly observance. It was, for want of a better term, “wave sheaf Sunday” (Dart R. From Passover to Easter. April 12, 2006).

What professing Christians often seem to forget is that the Bible shows that Jesus ascended to the Father on the Sunday after the Passover the year He was crucified. And that, not the resurrection itself, was observed by some Christians.

Easter Sunday is THE ROMAN 14th

For those of you who are not Roman Catholic, and even for those of you who are, do you realize that when you observe Easter when you do that you are supposedly observing the resurrection on a date based upon when Passover is supposed to fall? You ARE NOT keeping the wave sheaf Sunday.

And for you non-Roman Catholics, do you realize that when you observe Easter when you do that you are clearly accepting the authority of the Roman Church for that date?

In addition to what the Roman leaders declared in the second to fourth centuries which was mentioned previously, the writing from the Roman Catholic supporting Epiphanius may be of interest here. Epiphanius wrote:

The Quartodecimans contentiously keep Passover on the one day, once per year...They keep the Passover on whichever day the fourteenth of the month falls...Christ had to be slain on the fourteenth of the month in accordance with the law (Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47-80), De Fide). Section IV, Verses 1,3;1,6;2,6. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, pp. 23-25).

It is of interest to note that Epiphanius recognized that Jesus HAD to be slain on the 14th of the month. It is sad that he and others did not believe they needed to observe it when and how Jesus taught.

But you may be saying to yourself, so what? What does that have to do with Easter Sunday? Well in order to try to justify the Sunday observance, that noted Catholic leader claimed the following:

We observe the fourteenth day, then, but we wait until after the equinox and bring the end of our full observance to the sacred Lord's day...we will miss no one of the observances of this life-giving <festival> of the Passover as the whole truth prescribes them (Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47-80), De Fide). Section IV, Verses 3,4. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, p. 25).

Now this should cause major concern for people who observe Easter Sunday.

First, it truly is supposed to be some type of Passover observation. Thus this holiday really is supposed to have its "Jewish" name, instead of the pagan one it now is commonly called in English and German.

Second, Epiphanius is admitting that none of the Passover observances are to be missed. So why don't Protestants, Orthodox, and Roman Catholics wash feet? Why do they generally not take wine as part of their observances?

Thirdly, any who observe Easter Sunday are truly submitting to the authority of the Roman Church as this change of date, emphasis, and observation is due to the decisions of Roman Catholic supporting leaders--it in no way comes from the Bible.

I should also add here that Sunday IS NOT the Lord's day according to the Bible (an article of related interest may be Is Revelation 1:10 talking about Sunday or the Day of the Lord?).

Furthermore, contrary to the insistence of many who rely on a misunderstanding of the Bible and/or traditions of men, Jesus was not and could not have been resurrected on a Sunday. For biblical and historical proof, please read the article What Happened in the Crucifixion Week?

Furthermore, even though the Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox observe Sunday, the Orthodox use a calendar calculation more based upon the Bible than the Catholics and Protestants do. Notice why:

Montreal's Eastern Orthodox Christian community - Greeks, Ukrainians, Russians, Serbians, Armenians and Romanians - is observing Holy Week...There are 11 major Orthodox churches in Montreal, serving about 100,000 people. The differences among them are ethnic or linguistic, not theological.

The spiritual focus today is one of quiet mourning, solemn meditation and strict fasting, recalling Jesus's entombment.

Pascha, or Easter, will be celebrated after midnight tonight.

The two Christian communities - Orthodox and Western rite - observe Easter vigils on different dates because they follow different calendars.

Orthodox churches rely on lunar cycles to fix the date for Easter. The rest of the Christian world accepts the Gregorian calendar introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582.

(Eastern Orthodox faithful celebrate Easter tomorrow. The Gazette, Montreal - April 26, 2008. http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/story.html?id=db21a78e-edc1-408d-bbd8-3ea9aa570086).

Hence, Protestants are truly accepting a late date, one finalized by a pope after the Reformation!

As far as the resurrection not being on Sunday and other events around the time of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection--and the views of certain Protestant scholars who agree that Jesus was not resurrected on Sunday, please see the article What Happened in the Crucifixion Week?

More on Easter's Pagan Roots

Even secular sources are aware that Easter has many pagan practices:

The pagan roots of Easter

From Ishtar to Eostre, the roots of the resurrection story go deep. We should embrace the pagan symbolism of Easter

The Guardian, UK - April 3, 2010     by Heather McDougall

Easter is a pagan festival. If Easter isn't really about Jesus, then what is it about? Today, we see a secular culture celebrating the spring equinox, whilst religious culture celebrates the resurrection. However, early Christianity made a pragmatic acceptance of ancient pagan practises, most of which we enjoy today at Easter. The general symbolic story of the death of the son (sun) on a cross (the constellation of the Southern Cross) and his rebirth, overcoming the powers of darkness, was a well worn story in the ancient world. There were plenty of parallel, rival resurrected saviours too.

The Sumerian goddess Inanna, or Ishtar, was hung naked on a stake, and was subsequently resurrected and ascended from the underworld. One of the oldest resurrection myths is Egyptian Horus. Born on 25 December, Horus and his damaged eye became symbols of life and rebirth. Mithras was born on what we now call Christmas day, and his followers celebrated the spring equinox. Even as late as the 4th century AD, the sol invictus, associated with Mithras, was the last great pagan cult the church had to overcome. Dionysus was a divine child, resurrected by his grandmother. Dionysus also brought his mum, Semele, back to life.

In an ironic twist, the Cybele cult flourished on today's Vatican Hill. Cybele's lover Attis, was born of a virgin, died and was reborn annually. This spring festival began as a day of blood on Black Friday, rising to a crescendo after three days, in rejoicing over the resurrection...

What is interesting to note here is that in the ancient world, wherever you had popular resurrected god myths, Christianity found lots of converts. So, eventually Christianity came to an accommodation with the pagan Spring festival. Although we see no celebration of Easter in the New Testament,...today many churches are offering "sunrise services" at Easter – an obvious pagan solar celebration...

All the fun things about Easter are pagan. Bunnies are a leftover from the pagan festival of Eostre, a great northern goddess whose symbol was a rabbit or hare. Exchange of eggs is an ancient custom, celebrated by many cultures. Hot cross buns are very ancient too. In the Old Testament we see the Israelites baking sweet buns for an idol, and religious leaders trying to put a stop to it. The early church clergy also tried to put a stop to sacred cakes being baked at Easter. In the end, in the face of defiant cake-baking pagan women, they gave up and blessed the cake instead.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/apr/03/easter-pagan-symbolism

So, as the above indicates, Easter is pagan and items such as hot cross bun cakes where allowed as a result of compromise. Notice also the following related to the hot cross buns:

Traditionally served on Good Friday in England, hot cross buns have a long history that dates back to the ancient Egyptians and Grecians who decorated their buns with ox horns to represent protection and rebirth. (http://www.kitchendaily.com/read/easter-dinner-ideas-and-the-story-behind-traditional-easter-menu?icid=maing-grid10%7Chtmlws-main-bb%7Cdl35%7Csec1_lnk2%26pLid%3D289309 viewed 03/28/13)

Thousands of year ago, God inspired the Prophet Jeremiah to write:

18 The children gather wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke Me to anger. 19 Do they provoke Me to anger?" says the Lord. "Do they not provoke themselves, to the shame of their own faces?" (Jeremiah 7:18-19)

Some believe that the "cakes to the queen of heaven" (also known as Ishtar) that God condemned were the same, or at least similar to, modern hot cross buns:

The hot cross buns of Good Friday, and the dyed eggs of Pasch or Easter Sunday, figured in the Chaldean rites just as they do now. The "buns," known too by that identical name, were used in the worship of the queen of heaven, the goddess Easter, as early as the days of Cecrops, the founder of Athens--that is, 1500 years before the Christian era. "One species of sacred bread," says Bryant, "which used to be offered to the gods, was of great antiquity, and called Boun." Diogenes Laertius, speaking of this offering being made by Empedocles, describes the chief ingredients of which it was composed, saying, "He offered one of the sacred cakes called Boun, which was made of fine flour and honey." The prophet Jeremiah takes notice of this kind of offering when he says, "The children gather wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven." *

* Jeremiah 7:18. It is from the very word here used by the prophet that the word "bun" seems to be derived. The Hebrew word, with the points, was pronounced Khavan, which in Greek became sometimes Kapan-os (PHOTIUS, Lexicon Syttoge); and, at other times, Khabon (NEANDER, in KITTO'S Biblical Cyclopoedia). The first shows how Khvan, pronounced as one syllable, would pass into the Latin panis, "bread," and the second how, in like manner, Khvon would become Bon or Bun. It is not to be overlooked that our common English word Loa has passed through a similar process of formation. In Anglo-Saxon it was Hlaf.

The hot cross buns are not now offered, but eaten, on the festival of Astarte; but this leaves no doubt as to whence they have been derived. (Hislop A. The Two Babylons, pp. 107-108).

Those who make and eat hot cross buns on Easter should ask themselves why they intentionally do something like that.

Odd Medieval Catholic Easter Claims

The medieval historian and Catholic Priest Bede (also known as “the Venerable Bede”) recorded from a Roman Catholic Abbot named Wilfrid, who was trying to justify near the beginning of the 8th century why it was acceptable to not follow the Apostle John’s practices regarding Passover:

Far be it from me to charge John with foolishness: he literally observed the decrees of the Mosaic law when the Church was still Jewish in many respects, at a time when the apostles were unable to bring a sudden end to that law which God ordained…They feared, of course, that they might make a stumbling block for the Jewish proselytes…

So John, in accordance with the custom of the law, began the celebration of Easter Day in the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month, regardless of whether it fell on the sabbath or any other day. But when Peter preached at Rome, remembering that the Lord rose from the dead and brought to the world the hope of the resurrection on the first day of the week…he always waited for the rising of the moon on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month in accordance with the customs and precepts of the law as John did, he proceeded to celebrate Easter as we are accustomed to do at this present time. But if the Lord’s day was due, he waited for it, and began the holy Easter ceremonies the night before, that is on Saturday evening; so it came about that Easter Sunday was kept only between the fifteenth day of the moon and the twenty-first. So this evangelical and apostolic tradition does not abolish the law, but fulfills it, by ordering the observance of Easter from the evening of the fourteenth day of the moon in the first month up to the twenty-first day of the moon in the same month. All the followers of St. John in Asia since his death and also the whole church throughout the world have followed this observance. That this is the true Easter and that this alone must be celebrated…(Bede.  Edited by Judith McClure and Roger Collins.  The Ecclesiastical History of the English People.  Oxford University Press, NY, 1999, pp. 156-157)

Does that make any sense?

Let’s look at the facts:

  1. It is admitted that John and the early Church was fairly Jewish in their practices.
  2. The Apostle John said to keep the original teachings and practices and not to be deceived by those who would not abide in them (1 John 2:18-26).
  3. It is admitted that keeping Passover on the 14th was a practice of the Apostle John.
  4. While Jesus was resurrected by Saturday evening, there is no known early document (such as prior to the 3rd century) that states that Peter changed the Passover observance (a time to proclaim “the Lord’s death” per the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:26) from the 14th of Nisan to a Saturday evening observance.
  5. Abbot Wilfrid is arguing that Peter began a Passover service on Saturday night which is why Easter on Sunday morning is now kept.
  6. The New Testament is clear that the Apostle John, who Abbot Wilfrid admits kept Passover on the 14th, was often with the Apostle Peter after the resurrection (Acts 3:1-11; 4:13; 8:14; Galatians 2:9) and perhaps even to the time that Peter died (cf. 2 Peter 1:14-15).  Does anyone actually think that John and Peter, who were often together, kept differing dates?
  7. Most who now observe Easter Sunday do so during Sunday morning, yet as a resurrection holiday, not as a commemoration of Passover.
  8. All those who followed John’s practices, for at least one hundred years after his death in Asia Minor, stated that they did keep Passover on the 14th and not on a Sunday (Eusebius.  The History of the Church, Book V, Chapter XXIV, Verse 6, p. 114). So how could Abbot Wilfrid argue that they kept the same practice as the Romans who chose Sunday?
  9. Abbot Wilfrid admits that John followed the Bible in his own practice, but that somehow Peter allegedly made up a tradition that he did not learn from Jesus or the Bible. There is no verse in the Bible that states Passover should be observed on a Sunday. Abbot Wilfred apparently came to this conclusion on his own (or from some spurious source) as there is NO early historical proof that Peter either made, practiced, nor endorsed that change.  And if Peter established the “see” in Antioch, why did it embrace “Jewish practices,” including being Quartodeciman, into the early 3rd century?
  10. So while the Roman church does not observe the biblical practice of observing the days of unleavened bread, it apparently believes that the dates in Exodus 12:18 and Leviticus 23:5-6 regarding them need to be used to determine the date of Passover (that is where he would have needed to get the dates of the 15th and 21st from as they are the “days of unleavened bread associated with the Passover), but that the actual date (the 14th) of Passover should not be used unless it is on a Sunday.

Hence, Abbot Wilfrid’s conclusions should be discounted. John and the faithful in Ephesus did what the Bible taught.

Abbot Wilfrid’s claims of a later tradition from an unknown time seem odd. According to this dubious tradition, Peter supposedly reasoned that if Jesus was resurrected on the first day of the week, then the anniversary of His death should be observed on a Saturday night instead. 

This is illogical, as well as inaccurate. Catholic scholars, like Priest Bagatti, refer to the change from the 14th of Nisan to Sunday in the 2nd century as “new usage”(Bagatti, Church from the Circumcion, p. 10)—in other words, something that was not the original position of the Christians. Nor do I believe that the Apostle John kept the correct date of Passover out of fear of the Jews. There is nothing in the Bible nor in the historic accounts to indicate that this was the case. Furthermore, it is more likely that Sunday was adopted out of fear of the Romans. All Catholics should simply admit that although John kept Passover on the biblically correct date, some of their early leaders changed the date because of compromise and anti-Jewish sentiments.

Priest Bagatti admitted:

Since St. John spent the first years of his apostalate in Palestine, together with James, it is obvious that he had the custom of celebrating Easter {Passover} on the 14th of Nisan from the mother Church. (Bagatti, Church from the Circumcion, p. 80)

If the “mother Church” had that practice (which it did), shouldn’t others have imitated it? Easter Sunday WAS NOT an original practice.

Is Easter a Doctrine of Antichrist?

The idea of Easter being on a Sunday led to the acceptance of Sunday worship by most who professed Christ.

The only person in scripture to actually use the terms Antichrist or antichrists was the Apostle John.

John claimed to faithfully teach what Jesus taught:

This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true (John 21:24).

Regarding antichrists, call that John taught,

Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us (1 John 2:18-19).

So what may have been the first specific departure from the practices of John that we have a historical record of (involving John's name)?

The changing of the date of Passover to Easter!

As mentioned before, several decades after the Apostle John's death, his disciple Polycarp went to Rome to and objected to the Roman practice of changing Passover from an observance on the 14th of Nisan, to a Sunday observance (see Fragments of Irenaeus).

But Roman Bishop Anicetus refused to accept the warning and switch back to the biblical date. Bishop Victor condemned the Christians in Asia Minor for holding to the practices of the Apostle John in this area.

Later, Constantine tried to force Easter Sunday on his empire. Pagan practices also in and were accepted by his followers. Yet, the opponents of Easter were not wiped out.

After making a political arrangement with a king in England, the Roman Pontiff Vitalin learned that those in the Celtic areas still observed the Biblical passover. Notice the following report:

Pope Vitalin...supported efforts of the king of Northumbria, following the Synod of Whitby (664), to establish in England the Roman, as opposed to the Celtic, date for Easter (that is the Sunday after the Jewish Passover, rather than the Passover itself) and other Roman practices as well (McBrien, Richard P. Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs from St. Peter to Benedict XVI. Harper, San Francisco, 2005 updated ed., p. 109).

Notice that the above account (written by a Catholic priest and scholar) acknowledges that Rome changed Passover in Britian from the biblical date (which apparently the Celts observed into the 7th century) to the Roman date.

Since the Apostle John kept Passover, and warned that those who professed Christ and did not continue with him were antichrists, might not Easter be a doctrine of Antichrist.

Conclusion

Easter was simply not observed by early Christians, nor those who felt that they needed to obey the God of the Bible rather than men.

Easter was a result of compromise with scripture and paganism, combined with fear of man and antisemitism.

First, Passover was switched to Sunday out of fear and compromise.

Second, to try to justify this, the improper teaching that Jesus was resurrected on a Sunday began to flourish.

Third, this then changed the meaning of the day to have more to do with a resurrection or renewal than the practices of Passover.

Fourth, because of these changes, it apparently did not seem too much of a stretch to the Greco-Romans to adopt the pagan name Easter and associated Spring-time fertility and other practices.

Fifth, since this was done long ago, many do not realize that what is considered to be "the principal feast of the ecclesiastical year," by the Church of Rome, was not observed by original Christians.

Passover observance was backed by both the Old and New Testaments, as well as by the early Christians who claimed to be following the teachings of the apostles and the Bible. It was not a resurrection holiday and never should have pagan fertility practices associated with it.

Easter is not a truly Christian holiday, nor one actually endorsed in the Bible. Nor was Jesus even resurrected on a Sunday.

Four articles of related interest may be:

Is There "An Annual Worship Calendar" In the Bible?
Passover and the Early Church
Should Christians Keep the Days of Unleavened Bread?
What Happened in the Crucifixion Week?
What Does the Catholic Church Teach About Christmas and the Holy Days?

Thiel, B. Ph.D. Did Early Christians Celebrate Easter? www.cogwriter.com (c) 2006/2007/2008/2009/2010/2011/2012/2013/2014 0217

Back to Early Christianity page

Back to COGwriter home page