The Passover Plot

By COGwriter

Have you heard of the book The Passover Plot? Was Jesus really killed and resurrected?  What was the first Passover plot?

What does Islam teach? Was there a real Passover plot many centuries ago? Who have most who claim Christianity been affected by changes allegedly to Passover? What does this mean for Christians today? (A sermon of related interest is titled The Passover Plots, Including Easter.)

The Book titled The Passover Plot

Back in 1965, there was a best-selling book titled The Passover Plot by Hugh Schonfield. Here is some information related to it:

According to Schonfield's analysis, the events of the Passover, which are presented in all the Gospels, but inconsistently, are most accurately presented in the Gospel of John. His reading of that Gospel convinced him that John's account, though probably filtered through an assistant and transcription in John's old age, suggests that Jesus had planned everything. Among other things, so that he would not be on the cross for more than a few hours before the Sabbath arrived when it was required by law that Jews be taken down, so that one of his supporters, who was on hand, would give him water (to quench his thirst) that was actually laced with a drug to make him unconscious, and so that Joseph of Arimathea, a well-connected supporter, would collect him off the cross while still alive (but appearing dead) so that he could be secretly nursed back to health. Schonfield suggests that the plan went awry because of a soldier's actions with a spear. Schonfield gives evidence of a high-ranking member of the Sanhedrin who was one of Jesus' followers, likely the Beloved Disciple who is otherwise obscure, and notes several instances in which knowledge of or access to the Temple was available to one or more of Jesus' followers. He identifies this follower as John, the source of the Gospel many decades later whilst living in Asia Minor. He suggests that this Apostle, and Joseph of Arimathea, were responsible for events following the Crucifixion, and that it might have been this Apostle (an 'undercover Disciple', as it were) who was seen (by those who did not know him) at the Tomb on the morning of the Resurrection. (The Passover Plot. Wikipedia, viewed 03/15/14).

Allegedly, Jesus was seen for a few times after the pretended killing of Him and this is the proof of the resurrection that various ones believed according to the lies above about Passover. Only one who does not believe the Bible could accept the falsehoods in The Passover Plot.

Notice something else about it:

The church of Christ was founded upon the conviction that Christ was raised from the dead (Acts 4:10-12). Were these duped disciples, or were they diabolical deceivers? The New Testament presents the earliest disciples as believing in the fact of the resurrected Christ, which historical event was the center of their preaching. Accordingly, R.A. Torrey says, “The resurrection of Jesus Christ is mentioned directly 104 or more times in the New Testament” (What the Bible Teaches. 1898. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1998, p. 159)...

Here is Mr. Schonfield’s telling presupposition. He opined:

“Our minds are confused by the matter of fact manner of narration….The presentation of what takes place does not distinguish at all between the factual and the legendary, and no criteria are provided to enable us to separate the one from the other. We feel this to be grossly unfair, an imposition on our credulity….

“But we have been persuaded, quite wrongly and in complete disregard of the nature of spiritual folklore, that what is set down in the Bible is to be received as true in the literal and absolute sense of being the very word of God” (p. 41).

Talk about an imposition. Mr. Schonfield argues that since the New Testament contains “the legendary” it is spiritual folklore. How do we know it is folklore? Because it contains the legendary.

The Passover Plot illustrates every argument that tries to naturally explain the empty tomb. Whether the theory is: the disciples stole the body, the enemies stole the body, Joseph of Arimathaea took the body, the women went to the wrong tomb, Jesus revived having merely “swooned” on the cross, every conjecture about the empty tomb has a common denominator. They all deny what the text really says. They all make claims that cannot square with the text. They all presuppose the New Testament documents to be unreliable, but loftily claim to discern a reliable reconstruction from unreliable sources. (Jackson J. Pass Over “The Passover Plot.” Copyright © 2014 Christian Courier. All rights reserved. | ISSN: 1559-2235 . viewed 03/15/14)

Some have tried to claim that Jesus did not die after His last Passover observance on earth. Some claimed Judas died, while others claim it only appeared that Jesus died.

I would add that the disciples and others would not be inclined to die for something they knew was false. Yet, history reports that most of the apostle were killed for their faith.

Now sincere Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox, and those in the Church of God reject premise of The Passover Plot as basically blasphemous. However, most people on earth do not believe that Jesus was resurrected.

Islam and Jesus Death

If we go back centuries, we will see that Islam had its own interpretation of what happened to Jesus. What Islam teaches could also well be described as another Passover plot. Notice the following:

Muslims believe Jesus was not crucified, but was raised bodily to heaven by God, a belief purported to be found in the Gospel of Basilides, of which, if it existed, no copies survive. Depending on the interpretation of the following verse, Muslim scholars have abstracted different opinions. Some believe that in the Biblical account, Jesus' crucifixion did not last long enough for him to die while others opine that God gave someone Jesus' appearance, causing everyone to believe that Jesus was crucified (majority view). A third explanation could be that Jesus was nailed to a cross, but as his body is immortal he did not "die" or was not "crucified" [to death]; it only appeared so. In opposition to the second and third foregoing proposals, yet others maintain that God does not use deceit and therefore they contend that crucifixion just did not occur. The basis of all of these beliefs is the following verse in the Qur'an:

That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah";- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:- Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise;- —Qur'an, sura 4 (An-Nisa) ayat 157-158...

While most Western Scholars, Jews, and Christians believe Jesus died, most Muslims believe he was raised to Heaven without being put on the cross and God transformed another person to appear exactly like Jesus who was crucified instead of Jesus.

Muslims believe Jesus ascended bodily to Heaven, there to remain until his Second coming in the End days. The identity of the substitute has been a source of great interest among Muslims. One proposal is that God used one of Jesus' enemies. Judas Iscariot, Jesus' traitor, is most often cited, including by the medieval Gospel of Barnabas. The second proposal is that Jesus asked for someone to volunteer to be crucified instead of him. Simon of Cyrene is the person most commonly accepted to have done it, perhaps because according to the Synoptic Gospels he was compelled by the Romans to carry Jesus' cross for him (there is no indication in the Gospels that he volunteered).

Al-Baidawi writes that Jesus told his disciples in advance that whoever volunteered would go to heaven. The following narration recorded in the Qur'anic exegesis of Ibn Kathir is graded as authentic by orthodox Sunni scholars and provides a plausible explanation for the Qur'anic verse related to the substitution of Jesus:

Ibn Abbas said, "Just before Allah raised Jesus to the Heavens, Jesus went to his disciples, who were twelve inside the house. When he arrived, his hair was dripping with water (as if he had just had a bath) and he said, 'There are those among you who will disbelieve in me twelve times after you had believed in me.' He then asked, 'Who among you will volunteer for his appearance to be transformed into mine, and be killed in my place. Whoever volunteers for that, he will be with me (in Paradise).' One of the youngest ones among them volunteered, but Jesus asked him to sit down. Jesus asked again for a volunteer, and the same young man volunteered and Jesus asked him to sit down again. Then the young man volunteered a third time and Jesus said, 'You will be that man,' and the resemblance of Jesus was cast over that man while Jesus ascended to Heaven from a hole in the roof of the house. When the Jews came looking for Jesus, they found that young man and crucified him. Some of Jesus' followers disbelieved in him twelve times after they had believed in him. They then divided into three groups. One group, the Jacobites, said, 'Allah remained with us as long as He willed and then ascended to Heaven.' Another group, the Nestorians, said, 'The son of Allah was with us as long as he willed and Allah took him to Heaven.' Another group, the Muslims, said, 'The servant and Messenger of Allah remained with us as long as Allah willed, and Allah then took him to Him.' The two disbelieving groups cooperated against the Muslim group and they killed them. Ever since that happened, Islam was then veiled until Allah sent Muhammad." —Al-Nasa'i, Al-Kubra, 6:489 (Islamic view of Jesus' death. Wikipedia, viewed 03/26/14)

It is only by denying the truth of scripture that one can believe that Jesus was not killed and not resurrected.

The Apostle Paul taught that various people would discount the truth about Jesus' death and resurrection:

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent."

20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)

Atheists and others deny the truth of Jesus' death and resurrection. The Apostle Paul writes of those who deny the truth about God:

22 Professing to be wise, they became fools (Romans 1:22)

The Original Passover Plot

Of course, the original Passover plot was the one that improperly arrested Jesus and got Him beaten and sentenced to death.

Here is some of what the Bible teaches about that. Here is part one of that:

3 And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. 4 But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, "Why was this fragrant oil wasted? 5 For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor." And they criticized her sharply.

6 But Jesus said, "Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. 7 For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. 8 She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. 9 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her."

10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Him to them. 11 And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. So he sought how he might conveniently betray Him.

12 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover lamb, His disciples said to Him, "Where do You want us to go and prepare, that You may eat the Passover?" (Mark 14:3-12)

Here is part two of that:

47 And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people.
48 Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, "Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him." 49 Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, "Greetings, Rabbi!" and kissed Him.
50 But Jesus said to him, "Friend, why have you come?"
Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him. 51 And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.
52 But Jesus said to him, "Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? 54 How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?"
55 In that hour Jesus said to the multitudes, "Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I sat daily with you, teaching in the temple, and you did not seize Me. 56 But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled."
Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.
Jesus Faces the Sanhedrin(Mark 14:53-65; Luke 22:66-71; John 18:12-14,19-24)
57 And those who had laid hold of Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. 58 But Peter followed Him at a distance to the high priest's courtyard. And he went in and sat with the servants to see the end.
59 Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, 60 but found none. Even though many false witnesses came forward, they found none. But at last two false witnesses came forward 61 and said, "This fellow said, 'I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.'"
62 And the high priest arose and said to Him, "Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?" 63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, "I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!"
64 Jesus said to him, "It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven."
65 Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, "He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! 66 What do you think?"
They answered and said, "He is deserving of death." (Matthew 26:47-66)

Notice that betrayal combined with false witness was involved in the first 'Passover plot.' The third part involved whipping the crowd up against Jesus so that Pontius Pilate will allow Him to be killed, and this one actually referred to as something that was plotted:

1 When morning came, all the chief priests and elders of the people plotted against Jesus to put Him to death. 2 And when they had bound Him, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the governor. (Matthew 27:1-2)

15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to releasing to the multitude one prisoner whom they wished. 16 And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 Therefore, when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, "Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?" 18 For he knew that they had handed Him over because of envy.
19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, "Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him."
20 But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor answered and said to them, "Which of the two do you want me to release to you?"
They said, "Barabbas!"
22 Pilate said to them, "What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?"
They all said to him, "Let Him be crucified!"
23 Then the governor said, "Why, what evil has He done?"
But they cried out all the more, saying, "Let Him be crucified!"
24 When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, "I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it."
25 And all the people answered and said, "His blood be on us and on our children."
26 Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified. (Matthew 27:15-26)

12 From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, "If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar's friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar."

13 When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. 14 Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, "Behold your King!"

15 But they cried out, "Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!"

Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your King?"

The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar!"

16 Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. Then they took Jesus and led Him away. (John 19:12-16)

So, deceit, mobocracy, and political expedience were all part of the first "Passover plot.' It was finalized with the following:

1 Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.

5 But the angel answered and said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you."

8 So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.

9 And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, "Rejoice!" So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me."

11 Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. 12 When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 saying, "Tell them, 'His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.' 14 And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will appease him and make you secure." 15 So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day. (Matthew 28:1-15)

So, the plot to say Jesus was not resurrected ended up being another piece.

Another Passover Plot

This would not be the last Passover plot.

After there were problems because of the Jewish Bar Kohba revolt, as well as sun-god worship influence among the Greco-Romans, the Greco-Romans in Rome, Alexandria, and Jerusalem swtiched Passover from the evening of the 14th of Nisan to usually the first Sunday after it.

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.).

The Greco-Romans tried to insist on this date, but Polycarp and Polycrates would not accept the positions of the bishops of Rome who changed the date.

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, viewed 11/04/2011)

Over time, instead of being a night time memorial to Christ's sacrifice, Easter became a morning 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)

From these circumstances we are naturally led to infer, that the early Christians little concerned themselves about the resurrection itself in their paschal festival (Thomas Campbell, Samuel Carter Hall, Edward Bulwer Lytton Baron Lytton, Theodore Edward Hook, Thomas Hood, William Harrison Ainsworth. On the Origin and Celebration of Easter, The New Monthly Magazine, Volume 4, Henry Colburn, 1822, p. 270). 

Yet, 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.

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).

Those who think that the compromise by Rome and others 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

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 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 stated:

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. ( 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.  They have gone so far as in Latin to call Easter Pascha resurrectionis.  But the Passover WAS NOT A RESURRECTION HOLY DAY! 

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 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:

We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord's coming, when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who fell asleep in Hierapolis; and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter, who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and, being a priest, wore the sacerdotal plate. He fell asleep at Ephesus. And Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, bishop and martyr from Eumenia, who fell asleep in Smyrna. Why need I mention the bishop and martyr Sagaris who fell asleep in Laodicea, or the blessed Papirius, or Melito, the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead ? All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven. 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'...I could mention the bishops who were present, whom I summoned at your desire; whose names, should I write them, would constitute a great multitude. And they, beholding my littleness, gave their consent to the letter, knowing that I did not bear my gray hairs in vain, but had always governed my life by the Lord Jesus (Eusebius. The History of the Church, Book V, Chapter XXIV, Verses 2-7 . Translated by A. Cushman McGiffert. Publishing, Stilwell (KS), 2005, p. 114).

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

Perhaps it should be noted that another ‘Passover plot’ was to teach that Passover should be on the 15th instead of the 14th of Nisan.  This was more of a heresy that 2nd and/or 3rd century Church of God leaders had to deal with—and although this was dealt with back then, some today persist in this heretical error (see TPM: Passover on the 14th or 15th?).

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) 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 <>)

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.  For more on Easter, please see Did Early Christians Celebrate Easter?; here is a link to a video titled Why Easter?

Fasts and Lent

The next was that the Greco-Romans apparently decided to have a pre-Passover fast.

Since the Bible says that one should examine themselves prior to taking the Passover symbols (1 Corinthians 11:27-29), some in the second century apparently on their own decided that a type of fast may be appropriate.

While sometimes people would fast for a day, others chose differing amounts of time, but generally they were stricter than Lenten fasts and lasted less than a week:

For the controversy is not only concerning the day, but also concerning the very manner of the fast. For some think that they should fast one day, others two, yet others more; some, moreover, count their day as consisting of forty hours day and night. And this variety in its observance has not originated in our time; but long before in that of our ancestors. It is likely that they did not hold to strict accuracy, and thus formed a custom for their posterity according to their own simplicity and peculiar mode (Irenaeus as cited by Eusebius. Church History, V, Verses 12-13).

Moreover, with the Easter festival there seems also to have established itself a preliminary fast, not as yet anywhere exceeding a week in duration, but very severe in character, which commemorated the Passion, or more generally, "the days on which the bridegroom was taken away". (Lent. The Catholic Encyclopedia).

The Days of Unleavened Bread were kept for a week in the Bible (and 8 days if you count that some was eaten on Passover). In time, another change was to go to a 40 day Lent:

The Beginning of Lent...
Until the 600s, Lent began on Quadragesima (Fortieth) Sunday, but Gregory the Great (c.540-604) moved it to a Wednesday, now called Ash Wednesday, to secure the exact number of 40 days in Lent—not counting Sundays, which were feast days. Gregory, who is regarded as the father of the medieval papacy, is also credited with the ceremony that gives the day its name. (

Those who keep it are obeying traditions of men, not God:

6 Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. 7 Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:

8 "These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
9 And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'" (Matthew 15:6-9)

Also notice:

1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 3:1-7)

Lent is a focus on self.  People do not really examine themselves and repent during Lent—essentially they decide what they will temporarily abstain from for 40 days, then they go back to it.  It is not a time of real change, but seems to be a time when people have a ‘form of godliness’ based upon what they choose to do. Instead people who claim Christianity should keep the Passover, Days of Unleavened Bread, and other biblically-appointed times.

As far as some type of 'Passover plot' goes, I would suggest that switching to Easter Sunday and not observing it as Jesus told His followers to do so is the REAL Passover plot that has affected perhaps billions over the centuries. Lent is more of a vanity thing, a surface thing. It promotes only a temporal worldly repentance.

Passover is a biblical day (see Passover and the Early Church), and the Days of Unleavened Bread (see Should Christians Keep the Days of Unleavened Bread?) are enjoined in the Bible.

The Apostle Paul realized that that Jesus was a substitute for the Passover lamb that the Jewish people used. He also taught that Christians should still continue to observe Passover:

Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).

But how were Christians to do this?

The Apostle Paul explains:

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me." In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes. Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body (1 Corinthians 11:23-29).

So Christians were to keep the Passover in the manner that Jesus observed His final Passover. And that was at night as memorial--a memorial is an annual, not a weekly event. Notice that Jesus stated, "For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes." It is Jesus' death that this commemorates, and the Christian Passover is the annual commemoration of it. Also notice that Jesus DID NOT say to do this AS OFTEN AS YOU DESIRE, only that when you do it, you are proclaiming His death.

The Greek term for often, hosakis, is used one other time in the New Testament. It does not mean as often as you desire UNLESS the Greek term for "you desire", thelo or ethelo, is also present, which it is in Revelation 11:6 (the only other place in the Bible this particular term is used). However, since is NOT present in 1 Corinthians 11:26, Paul is NOT telling us to observe the Lord's Passover as often as we desire, but that when we are observing it on Passover, it is not just a ceremony, it is showing Christ's death.

In 1 Corinthians 11:27-29, Paul is clearly teaching that to take this bread and wine, one must examine oneself. This also supports the concept of an annual examination. The deleavening that is supposed to accompany Passover helps us focus on our faults and sins, and thus helps fulfill this command from Paul to examine ourselves.

Passover Plots

There have been many Passover plots. Most who profess Christianity properly discount the book with that title. Yet, most have accepted many of the other Passover plots that have come beginning with the change of Passover to Sunday. They have also accepted Easter as the holiday, and not Passover. And while not all Greco-Romans keep Lent, they also basically do not keep the Days of Unleavened Bread.

But the real Passover plot now is for you to not consider Passover important enough to examine yourself and change to be more like Jesus Christ.  Christians, as the Apostle Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:18, are to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that is a big part of what the real Passover is all about.

During the time near Passover, please examine yourself. Be willing to change your life. Obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).

A sermon of related interest is titled The Passover Plots, Including Easter.

 Thiel B. The Passover Plot. (c) 2014/2015 0310

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