It’s that time of year. For weeks now the stores have stocked up on cream eggs, marshmallow chicks, both solid and hollow bunnies, and jelly beans. Plans are being made for Easter Egg hunts and other events. Movies like King of Kings are coming on television. Churches are gearing up for the influx of people who seem to only show up for Easter, Christmas, and New Years Eve. The question that continues to come up is this; Did the Early Church celebrate or observe Easter? A better question is, did the Apostles have the Churches celebrate it in its current form?

 

What Does Easter Mean?

Historically, the word Easter is not Hebrew. The word is Greek. The word is linked to the Hebrew word ‘Pascha’, which means ‘Passover’. This linking took place long after the resurrection of Christ. Trying to pin down the exact origin of Easter should tell you something about it. It is believed that the word Easter is an English mis-translation or spelling of the original word, ‘Eostre’. This is the name of the Germanic goddess. It is also historically taken from the word Astarte, which is Chaldean. Strangely enough, both are names of goddesses of ancient times. Astarte is known in scripture as ‘Ashtoreth’, as found in 1 Kings 11:5:

“For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.”

Ashtoreth is the goddess of love. And we know that Solomon’s wives turned his heart from God in his old age according to 1 Kings 11:4. It is well-known that Easter was a replacement for the Jewish Passover. The history of this act is well documented. While the story is too lengthy to record here, I will do my best to highlight some parts and add my own findings.

 

The Replacement of Passover

From the time of the Exodus of Israel from Egypt, the Passover was observed by the Jewish people on the 14th of Nisan. Right up through the New Testament, Passover was observed along with the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Even Christ Himself kept it with His disciples. More on this in a moment. It was during the time after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem that Easter began to gain prominence among Christians. This was because of rising antisemitism. Compromising Jewish and Greek Christians wanted to distance themselves from anything that resembled Judaism. But it was during the Council of Nicaea in 325 that Easter became an official Christian observance. It was decided that Passover would fall on the first day of the week, to coincide with the resurrection of Christ. And it would be observed in April of instead of 14 Nisan. Of course we know that with later changes in the Gregorian calendar, Easter became a ‘movable feast’, shifting between March and April. But it is always held on Sunday. According to the The Encyclopaedia Britannica…

“The Gentile Christians, on the other hand, unfettered by Jewish traditions, identified the first day of the week [Sunday] with the Resurrection, and kept the preceding Friday as the commemoration of the crucifixion, irrespective of the day of the month” (11th edition, p. 828, “Easter”)

Furthermore…

“A final settlement of the dispute [over whether and when to keep Easter or Passover] was one among the other reasons which led [the Roman emperor] Constantine to summon the council of Nicaea in 325 . . . The decision of the council was unanimous that Easter was to be kept on Sunday, and on the same Sunday throughout the world, and ‘that none should hereafter follow the blindness of the Jews’ ” (ibid., pp. 828-829).

Isn’t Easter Mentioned in the Bible?

“Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.”  Acts 12:1-4

Easter is mentioned once in the New Testament. Herod Agrippa I (not Herod Antipater or ‘Antipas’ of Jesus’ day), after he killed James, the brother of John. Here is the kicker… This was during the Jewish Passover, not Easter! The Passover was never called Easter by the Jews. Yet Easter was to be observed around the same time. Note verse three mentions the days of Unleavened Bread. So what’s the deal? Easter was already an established Greek celebration of the goddess Eostre! Please see the references at the end of the post for further details.

 

Were Christians Ever Told to Observe Easter?

The only answer anyone can give in truth is no! We were told by Jesus Himself to observe Passover, not Easter!

“Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?”  Matthew 26:17

“And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.”  Luke 22:19

If Easter was observed, why didn’t Jesus mention it? Why didn’t the Apostles teach on it or observe it themselves? They didn’t because it is not for Christians to keep. And the Early Christians did not keep it. They kept Passover, which we now call ‘The Lord’s Supper‘.

 

When Did Jesus mention Rabbits, Chicks, and Eggs?

Do you recall reading about rabbits, chicks, or eggs in scripture? I remember reading about rabbits! In the bible, rabbits are called conies!

“And the coney, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.”  Leviticus 11:5

And here are your chickens…

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”  Matthew 23:37

And the eggs…

“And my hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people: and as one gathereth eggs that are left, have I gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped.”  Isaiah 10:14

Okay. So Jesus did mention chickens. But these chickens were not Peeps, nor were they chocolate. All three of these items represent fertility and were used by ancient nations in fertility rites to false gods. They have nothing to do with Christ’s death, burial, or resurrection. They come from Eostre’s ancient rituals.

 

Did Jesus Tell Us To Celebrate His Resurrection?

We covered this earlier but here is a recap.

“Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?”  Matthew 26:17

“And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.”  Luke 22:19

The Passover initiated in ancient Egypt was a foreshadow of Christ’s death. He is the Passover Lamb!

“Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover. And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning. For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.” Exodus 12:21-23

“And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!”  John 19:14

“Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:”  1 Corinthians 5:7

Jesus told the disciples to keep the Passover in remembrance of Him. Again, the Passover is what we call The Lord’s Supper. Oh, and by the way, the word ‘Communion‘ means partnership or fellowship. It is used to reference the Passover, but was never called that by the Early Church.

“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.”  1 Corinthians 10:16-17

A Quick Aside About Sunrise Services

From the book, Celebrations—The Complete Book of American Holidays,

“These have been linked to rites of ancient sun worshippers “performed at the vernal equinox welcoming the sun and its great power to bring new life to all growing things.”

You don’t find this in the Early Church teachings or practices either. Not to mention, the Passover is usually held in the evening.

“Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve.” Matthew 26:20

Passover would have begun at sundown since an original day was from evening to evening, not morning to morning. So, they would not have observed the sunrise. God knew what man would do and did everything so we could discern the real from the counterfeit.

 

Conclusion

So as the world prepares to celebrate Easter, consider what it is they do. We can’t stop the world from doing what they do. Nor am I writing this to tell anyone to stop doing what they choose. But if you are a Christian, please consider what you are a partaker of.

“But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”  Matthew 15:9

“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;”  Ephesians 4:14

While Easter represents a celebration of the resurrection of Christ to many, we are told to remember Christ only through Passover. Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras), the 40 days of Lent (the 40-day fasts done after the New Year leading up to Easter…), Holy Week, Good Friday, Easter, and Eastertide (50-day ascension celebration) were all added long after Christ’s Resurrection and the start of the Christian Church. And while there is nothing wrong with remembering these events (Jesus asked us to remember), they are best remembered the way He asked us to. This way we can avoid counterfeits and deception. The only way to be assured of God’s blessing and grace on our deeds is to do what His Word says and avoid what’s absent.

“What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.”  Deuteronomy 12:32

Because…

“A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”  Galatians 5:9

I hope you found this article helpful. Have a bible question? Feel free to ask here or in the comment box! If you liked this article, you can subscribe for notification when new articles are posted. You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.   Sources: Online. Easter – Dictionary.com (3 Apr 2017) Vine, W.E., et al. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1940 Online. Easter Holiday. The Encyclopædia Britannica. 2 Apr. 2017. Leach, Maria, and Jerome Fried. Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1972 Myers, Robert J. Celebrations—The Complete Book of American Holidays. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1972 Hislop, Alexander. The Two Babylons. New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers, 1959

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