Easter is a celebration that is observed by almost every sector of Christianity, and is a remembrance of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is one of the two most celebrated occasions in the Christian calendar - the other being Christmas.
A great number of people attend their church on "Good Friday" in remembrance of the Crucifixion, and again on "Easter Sunday" in celebration of his resurrection. Some Christians deny themselves of a favourite food for forty days before the Easter period.
For children especially, it is a time for "Easter Bunny" and Easter eggs, and "Hot Cross Buns".
The Bible and Easter.
The Bible mentions Easter on only one occasion.
"And because [Herod] 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. Peter therefore was kept in prison…" Acts 12:3-5a
The Greek word translated here as Easter, is pascha, which referred to the paschal festival-or the feast of Passover-extending from the fourteenth to the twentieth day of the month Nisan. Other translations of the New Testament invariably translate the passage accordingly.
"So when he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after Passover." Acts 12:4 NKJV
This feast of Passover originated as a Jewish celebration, dating from the time that God delivered His people from the hands of the Egyptians, and Moses lead the people away from bondage.
"And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD's passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. And this day shall be unto you for a memorial…" Exodus 12:11-14a
From that time on, the date of the Passover was fixed.
"The Lord's Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the fifteenth day of that month the Lord's Feast of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast." Leviticus 23:5,6
So this was the feast that Herod was referring to in his reluctance to bring Peter before the crowd when he wished. To do so while the Jews were celebrating Passover might have served only to provoke the crowd.
Easter, then, is never mentioned in the original Scriptures.
Easter and the Crucifixion
Although Easter, as such, may not have been mentioned in the original Scripture, wasn't Jesus crucified at the time of the Passover?
The New Testament records that Jesus was actually crucified the day before the Jewish Passover. Again, like with Herod, the ruling people were reluctant to carry out anything during the Passover that might inflame the wrath of the Jews.
"Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him. "But not during the Feast," they said, "or there may be a riot among the people."" Matthew 26:3-5
Origin of Easter
Since the Easter celebration coincides with the Passover and the time of the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, can we assume that Easter is of Christian origin?
"Easter" is derived from the name "Eastre" or "Eostre", the Teutonic goddess of Spring. Though this is where the name of the feast begins, the practices of the feast go back to even earlier times-soon after the Flood of Noah's day.
Noah had a son grandson named Nimrod.
"Cush was the father of Nimrod, who grew to be a mighty warrior on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; that is why it is said, "Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the LORD."
The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Erech, Akkad and Calneh, in Shinar. From that land he went to Assyria, where he built Nineveh," Genesis 10:8,9
Babylon was a major city and the centre of pagan religion. When Nimrod died, the Babylonian pagan religion that he had founded continued on. His wife, Queen Semiramus, ensured that this would be so by deifying Nimrod as a sun-god. He later became recognised as Baal, Bel, and many other names.
Queen Semiramus gave birth to an illegitimate son, whom she named Tammuz, and claimed that her son had been miraculously conceived, and was Nimrod "reborn". Thus began the worship of the Mother and Son, with the Mother having the greater importance.
Now, their 'saviour' Tammuz, was worshipped in the Spring. Legend has it that when Tammuz was killed, he mystically revived in the Spring, and represented a supposed resurrection from the nether world. So each Spring the people worshipped the 'new life' represented in new Spring growth.
Queen Semiramus became the Mother Goddess "Ishtar" or "Astate", which was pronounced very similar to the word Easter. She became the goddess of Spring, sexual love and birth.
So Easter is not of Christian origin,1 but has pagan origins in line with Christmas! It is by deception of the Roman Church that it continues today, for its real origin remains suppressed to many. But its complete real origins, are also disclosed by the associated Easter customs…
What would Easter be like without the Easter Bunny and without Easter Eggs?
The 'bunny' is rather a misnomer-it was originally a hare. The hare was a sacred companion of the goddess Eostre. The hare was one of the most fertile animals known, a reputation helped by their frequent multiple births, and represented fertility in the celebration of Spring, associated as it is with new growth and new animal life. The bunny was first introduced to the Christian Easter celebration in the 16th Century in Germany, and spread from there to all places where Easter is celebrated.
Not surprisingly, the Easter Eggs have a similar pre-Christian origin, as they symbolised new birth and new life, again celebrated during the Spring feast to the goddess Eostre. The ancient Egyptians and Persians dyed eggs in the various colours of Spring, and distributed them to their friends.
Hot Cross Buns also bear the stamp of a pre-Christian celebration. Yes, they existed before Jesus was crucified on the cross. But the opportunity was taken to absorb into a Christian celebration a traditional marking that could now represent the cross on which our Saviour died. The real origin of the custom of eating hot cross buns is derived from the ancient times when pagans offered their god, Zeus, a cake baked in the form of a bull, with a cross upon it to represent its horns.
Part of the Roman Catholic Easter celebration consists of a forty-day period of fasting. Lent is a solemn period of repentance, fasting, and abstinence leading up to the festival of Easter. It lasts for six and a half weeks or 40 days excluding Sundays. During Lent, it is said, Christians may undertake a number of strategies to help them concentrate on their sins and try to do better. Traditionally this included avoiding luxuries such as sugar, not eating meat on Fridays (the day Jesus died), fasting on certain days (Ash Wednesday, Good Friday), praying and attending church more frequently. Today some Christians feel that they ought to do something more positive than simply denying themselves, so they may undertake some local project to help others or collect money for charity.
However, once again the origin of Lent has little to do with Easter, as its name suggests, for 'Lent' is derived from the Old English word 'lencten' meaning 'Spring'. So once again we can trace an origin way back to the pre-Christian celebration of Spring. It was borrowed directly from the worshippers of the Babylonian goddess. Their period of Lent was of forty days, "in the spring of the year". Such a period of forty days was also observed in Egypt2 and Mexico.3
Christians and Easter
Since so much of the Easter celebration, including its name, is steeped in paganism, should a Christian keep the commemoration?
Yes, and no! We should indeed keep the observance of the death and resurrection of our Lord-for Jesus himself asked us to observe it-but we shouldn't observe it wrapped as it is in pagan custom. There is a Day coming in which we will stand in judgement for those things we have done, and it would take some explaining why we have observed pagan festivals, albeit with sound intentions. Any worship of Baal was abhorrent to God, and continues to be.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth explaining how a Christian should celebrate the Lord's death and resurrection-in taking the bread and wine as applicable symbols.
"For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me."
In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me."
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
This practice was called 'breaking bread', and became a regular feature in the lives of the Christian true believers.
"On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight." Acts 20:7
The death of Jesus was timed by his Father to coincide with the death of the lamb used for the normal Jewish Passover. The date for this was the 14th of Nisan (with the Passover being celebrated a few hours later on the 15th).
The Jewish day began at sunset, and the lamb was slain from 3pm onwards the next afternoon, and eaten later that evening (which would be the 15th Nisan). This implies that Jesus was crucified on a Thursday afternoon, and was resurrected some time after sunset following the Sabbath day. This would then agree with the prophesied statement that Jesus would be dead for three days and three nights.
"For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Matthew 12:40
The tradition of a Friday crucifixion has been long held, but cannot be substantiated from an accurate reading of the New Testament. Nevertheless, one point is clear-the time of the crucifixion was at least within 24 hours of the Jewish Passover
This followed the express wish of Jesus:
"And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you." Luke 22:19,20
Unlike the Jewish Passover celebrated but once a year, the Passover that Jesus initiated was to be celebrated weekly, or whenever it was needed.
"For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes." 1 Corinthians 11:26
Often called 'The Last Supper', or 'The Lord's Supper', this was the celebration that Jesus expected his disciples to follow-not the pagan celebration masquerading as Easter. The latter belongs to Babylon, concerning which Jesus warned:
"The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath." Revelation 16:19
"Then I heard another voice from heaven say: "Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes." Revelation 18:4,5