Scholarly Comments on Easter

COGwriter

Eash year. scholars have raised concerns about the secularization of Easter:

Is the meaning of Easter being lost?

Some scholars fear the story of resurrection has gone far astray

By KATE SHELLNUTT
HOUSTON CHRONICLE

April 3, 2010, 6:22AM…

Fewer than half of Americans mentioned Jesus’ death and resurrection when asked about the significance of Easter, according to a survey released last month by Christian researchers the Barna Group. http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/life/main/6942155.html

But the apparent assumption above that Easter was originally observed as a Christian resurrection holiday is in error. Easter is the name of a pagan goddess. It was observed as a pagan fertility holiday with eggs and rabbits as symbols. It was something that compromisers adopted over time as a tool to reach pagans. Easter was not observed by the Apostles or their immediate successors.

Notice another report from another scholar:

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)

The truth is that the original Christians all observed Passover, and that on the 14th of Nisan. However, because of compromise and fear, some in Rome, Alexandria, and elsewhere adopted Sunday to be observed as Passover. SDA scholar Samuele Bacchiocchi noted that the change to Easter-Sunday and to a weekly Sunday observance was due to persecution (the new Gentile hierarchy he is referring to are Greek bishops in Jerusalem, which took over after the rebellion was crushed in 135 A.D.):

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:

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…

…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.

As the compromisers expanded, those in pagan cultures with fertility holidays (which were predominant in many parts of Europe) encouraged the adoption of symbols such rabbits, eggs, etc. And as reported here yesterday, even some 21st century Catholics realize that this is a problem (see Catholic Register: “Easter Bunny Must Die”).

Easter itself is not a Christian term, and its celebration is known by scholars to contain 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 Roman scholars 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.

Even news sources are aware of the pagan connections and compromises amongst some who professed Christ related to the Spring festivals:

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. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/apr/03/easter-pagan-symbolism

The Bible itself specifically 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). Those who followed the practices of the original apostles never have observed it.

Even Protestant scholars note that the Bible specifically condemns some of the pagan practices:

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.

Easter, which is named after the pagan goddess Ishtar, 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.

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. I have seen various advertisements in the newspaper that many groups in Southern California will hold special services for Easter. But those groups who hold to the beliefs and practices of the earliest Christians were not among them.

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?
Passover and the Early Church Did the early Christians observe Passover? What did Jesus and Paul teach? Why did Jesus die for our sins?
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?



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