In a few weeks, many people will be observing Easter. Is it an original holiday of the Church? What was it supposed to be? What does the Catholic Church teach about it?
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).
Easter itself is not a Christian term, and its celebration contains pagan elements. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes:
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…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, which had occurred on a Sunday. Because the Sunday after 14 Nisan was the historical day of the Resurrection, at Rome this Sunday became the Christian feast of Easter…
Men and women…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 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)…
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
(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 Bible itself also condemns certain practices, now associated with Easter, such as hot Easter buns/cakes (Jeremiah 7:14), 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).
Notice a report from the Catholic historian Eusebius:
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, according to Catholic history (which is correct on this point) Christians did not observe a resurrection holiday, instead they kept Passover–and the lunar date was only rarely (probably about once every seven years) on a Sunday.
A 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 and/or Eastern Orthodox 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. And while Catholics may see no problem with that, even they should understand that Easter is a change and not an original tradition of their church.
I perhaps 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?
Notice also the following report (written by a Catholic priest and scholar):
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 acknowledges that Rome changed Passover in Britian from the biblical date (which apparently the Celts observed into the 7th century) to the Roman date.
Here is a report from a non-Catholic writer:
I wonder how many will consider that it was the Passover meal which Jesus (or Yeshua as He is called in Hebrew) celebrated in what has become known as the ‘Last Supper’? It was on this date, 14th Nisan in the Biblical calendar, that Yeshua asked His followers to remember His death, yet very few actually do this.
Rather Gentile (later non-Jewish) Christians replaced the Passover of the Lord as set in place by God with its rich symbolism of the sacrifice of the Passover lamb and God freeing His people, with the man-made institution of ‘Easter’ named after a pagan deity ‘Eostre’ (invariably appearing as ‘Ishtar,’ ‘Astarte,’ or the Old Testament ‘Ashtoreth’). ‘Easter’ emphasised the Resurrection, not Yeshua’s death…
When the women came to the tomb before dawn on Sunday they found Yeshua had already risen, making it likely that it was at the end of the Saturday Sabbath. If we count back from the end of the Saturday Sabbath (which ends at sunset) 72 hours we will arrive at Wednesday afternoon, the time which according to His own words, Yeshua would then have been crucified. Tradition states that Yeshua died on a Friday, but the word Friday is not mentioned in the Gospel accounts. (Nevin C. The real dates of the resurrection Bristol Evening Post, UK – April 5, 2012. http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/real-dates-resurrection/story-15722780-detail/story.html)
Note: The faithful Gentile Christians in Asia Minor did not change Passover to Easter, this was a change of the Greco-Roman “Orthodox” confederation and not adopted by the true Church of God.
But despite what scholars do and/or should know, most who profess Christ tend to ignore the fact that early Christians kept Passover on the 14th, but instead tend to observe a compromised Sunday holiday with elements of paganism called Easter. Catholics realize that Easter was a change from Passover and that the change included the adoption of pagan elements.
Since Easter was not the practice of the original church, should you be observing it? If not, would you like to learn more about which times the Bible says should be observed?
Those who wish to learn more should also study the following articles:
Did Early Christians Celebrate Easter? If not, when did this happen? What do scholars and the Bible reveal?
Do You Practice Mithraism? Many practices and doctrines that mainstream so-called Christian groups have are the same or similar to those of the sun-god Mithras. Do you follow Mithraism combined with the Bible or original Christianity?
Marcus, the Marcosians, & Mithraism: Developers of the Eucharist? Marcus was a second century heretic condemned for having a ceremony similar to one still practiced by many who profess Christ. Might he also be in the apostolic succession list of the Orthodox Church of Alexandria?
Passover and the Early Church Did the early Christians observe Passover? What did Jesus and Paul teach? Why did Jesus die for our sins? There is also a detailed YouTube video available titled History of the Christian Passover.
What Happened in the Crucifixion Week? How long are three days and three nights? Did Jesus die on “Good Friday”? Was the resurrection on Sunday? Do you really know? Who determined the date of Easter?
Is There “An Annual Worship Calendar” In the Bible? This paper provides a biblical and historical critique of several articles, including one by WCG which states that this should be a local decision. What do the Holy Days mean?
Holy Day Calendar This is a listing of the biblical holy days through 2017, with their Roman calendar dates. They are really hard to observe if you do not know when they occur
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?