Did Early Christians Observe Easter or Passover?

Site of Calvary?


Many people, especially in the English-speaking nations do not realize that the holiday that they call Easter really is supposed to be Passover.

Passover is after sunset on March 29h this year, whereas Easter is April 1st, or for the Eastern Orthodox, April 8th.

In many other languages, some version of the Greek word páscha is often used, so in those cultures they tend to be more aware of the original biblical connection.

Early Christians clearly kept Passover and not Easter.

Notice what a respected Protestant scholar reported about the second century:

The most important in this festival was the passover day, the 14th of Nisan…In it they ate unleavened bread, probably like the Jews, eight days through…there is no trace of a yearly festival of the resurrection among them…the Christians of Asia Minor appealed in favor of their passover solemnity on the 14th Nisan to John (Gieseler, Johann Karl Ludwig. A Text-book of Church History. Translated by Samuel Davidson, John Winstanley Hull, Mary A. Robinson. Harper & brothers, 1857, Original from the University of Michigan, Digitized Feb 17, 2006, p. 166).

So, like the Apostle John (the last of the original apostles to die), the early faithful Christians observed Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread.

When is Passover? Is it early in the morning?


As far as early Christians go, Jesus and His disciples kept Passover in the evening (cf. John 13).

In the second century, it was reported that Passover was an annual event and that it was held at night (Epistula Apostolorum, Chapter 15 as shown in Elliot JK. The apocryphal New Testament: a collection of apocryphal Christian literature in an English translation, reprint edition. Oxford University Press, 2005, p. 565).

The Eastern Orthodox realize that this is so, as one of their priests has written:

Pascha is the feast of universal redemption. 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)

Most people do not seem to realize that ALL early Christians kept Passover. And that because of various compromises “Easter” later came to be observed by most who claim Christ.

Later, that compromise was formally agreed to by a council called by a non-baptized Emperor in 325. Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

1170 At the Council of Nicaea 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. Because of different methods of calculating the 14th day of the month of Nisan, the date of Easter in the Western and Eastern Churches is not always the same. For this reason, the Churches are currently seeking an agreement in order once again to celebrate the day of the Lord’s Resurrection on a common date. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 332)

It should be noted that ALL the churches did not agree and those in the true Church of God did not attend the Council of Nicaea.

That it is understood, even by some Catholic scholars, that “Judeo-Christian” churches were not represented on at that Council. Notice what Priest Bellarmino Bagatti wrote.

…the inhabitants of Syria, of Cilcia and of Mesopotamia were still celebrating Easter {Passover} with the Jews…

The importance of the matters to be discussed and the great division that existed had led Constantine to bring together a big number of bishops, including confessors of the faith, in order to give the impression that the whole of Christendom was represented.

In fact…the churches of Jewish stock had had no representation…From this we can conclude that no Judaeo-Christian bishop participated in the Council. Either they were not invited or they declined to attend. And so the capitulars had a free hand to establish norms for certain practices without meeting opposition or hearing other view points. ( Bagatti, Bellarmino. Translated by Eugene Hoade. The Church from the Gentiles in Palestine. Nihil obstat: Ignatius Mancini, 1 Februari 1970. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari, 26 Februari 1970. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, die 28 Februarii 1970. Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, 1971, pp. 47-48)

Over time, not only the date, but the practices associated with Passover changed for the Greco-Roman churches as did the name in languages like English.

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…

Passover this year is after sunset March 29th. Easter is observed by the Church of Rome on April 1 this year (it is always supposed to be AFTER the 14th as a decision was made centuries ago to NOT have it on the biblical date).

During Passover services in the Continuing Church of God, most of Jesus’ words in John 13-18 tend to be read and/or commented upon as part of the service. Most people do not seem to realize that this is what Jesus taught on the night He was betrayed. Also, most do not realize that much of the Gospel according to John had to do with two holy day seasons: the final Passover season (Chapters 13-21) and one particular Feast of Tabernacles’ season (Chapters 7-9). And although Martin Luther preferred John’s Gospel, he ignored those days himself.

But early Christians did not ignore them. Pretty much all scholars realize that all early Christians kept Passover (see also a detailed YouTube video available titled History of the Christian Passover.).

What about you?

Those who wish to learn more should also study the following:

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.
Melito’s Homily on the Passover This is one of the earliest Christian writings about the Passover. This also includes what Apollinaris wrote on the Passover as well.
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?
Did Early Christians Celebrate Easter? If not, when did this happen? Where did Easter come from? What do scholars and the Bible reveal? Here is a link to a video titled Why Easter?
How often should we partake of THE LORD’S SUPPER? Herbert Armstrong answers that question.
Keeping Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread How should Christians keep Passover, especially if they are by themselves. Why does the Church of God not require lambs for Passover? How does one keep the Days of Unleavened Bread? For a step-by-step video for Christians to keep it, check out a CCOG Passover Service. Here is a link to a related article in the Spanish language: Guardando la Pascua y los Días de los Panes sin Levadura.
Preparing for Passover The Apostle Paul taught that Christians should examine themselves prior to taking Passover. This YouTube video sermon gives suggestions on how to prepare.
Should You Observe God’s Holy Days or Demonic Holidays? This is a free pdf booklet explaining what the Bible and history shows about God’s Holy Days and popular holidays. A related sermon is Which Spring Days should Christians observe?
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?
Where is the True Christian Church Today? This free online pdf booklet answers that question and includes 18 proofs, clues, and signs to identify the true vs. false Christian church. Plus 7 proofs, clues, and signs to help identify Laodicean churches. A related sermon is also available: Where is the True Christian Church? Here is a link to the booklet in the Spanish language: ¿Dónde está la verdadera Iglesia cristiana de hoy? Here is a link in the German language: WO IST DIE WAHRE CHRISTLICHE KIRCHE HEUTE? Here is a link in the French language: Où est la vraie Église Chrétienne aujourd’hui?
Continuing History of the Church of God This pdf booklet is a historical overview of the true Church of God and some of its main opponents from Acts 2 to the 21st century. Related sermon links include Continuing History of the Church of God: c. 31 to c. 300 A.D. and Continuing History of the Church of God: 4th-16th Centuries and Continuing History of the Church of God: 17th-20th Centuries. The booklet is available in Spanish: Continuación de la Historia de la Iglesia de Dios, German: Kontinuierliche Geschichte der Kirche Gottes, French: L’Histoire Continue de l’Église de Dieu and Ekegusii Omogano Bw’ekanisa Ya Nyasae Egendererete.

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