Easter vs Pascha (Passover)
Dr. R. J. Rizzi, BRE, MARE, PhD, DD
April 12, 2020
Each year the holiday comes around and people everywhere, Christians and atheists alike, all wish others, “Happy Easter”.
Unlike everyone else, it seems, I cringe at those very words. Other Christians do not seem to have any qualms at all, accepting the term, Easter. as something from the Word of God and something to be celebrated.
I ask the question today: “Why do believers not question something that most unbelievers accept and celebrate?” I ask because, as a believer in Christ, I want nothing to do with what takes place in the name of celebrating anything but the Resurrection of the Savior at this time of year.
Oh, I was ignorant of the truth when I was young because my parents did all of the Easter things, the chocolate bunny, the jelly beans, the colored eggs, etc...
But then once I placed my faith in Christ and began my doctrinal search into what God’s Word actually teaches, I began to question just about everything associated with things of faith.
The Word teaches us this: When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, reason like a child, think like a child. But now that I have become a man, I’ve put an end to childish things. 1 Corinthians 13.11 CEB
Also: Train children in the way they should go; when they grow old, they won’t depart from it. Proverbs 22.6 CEB
The reason so many people inside the Church celebrate 'Easter', almost to the detriment of observing the, is that all too many have accepted the word Easter as a substitute for what is actually in the Bible.
If you are interested at all in why I will never celebrate Easter, read the rest of my article. I ask that you be open to what the Word of God teaches and that you might reject the paganistic influence of what ought to be a Christ-focused celebration.
The event of the Resurrection of Christ is not something believers are to take for granted, nor should we dilute it in any way. As with anything in this world, there is an influence by God’s enemies to steer people away from Christ toward anything else, especially self. This, in my opinion, is what the modern activity of Easter does.
The Resurrection is the key to the whole Christian faith.
If there’s no resurrection of the dead, then Christ hasn’t been raised either. If Christ hasn’t been raised, then our preaching is useless and your faith is useless. 1 Corinthians 15.13-14 CEB
Without the resurrection of Christ, there would be no reason to follow Him.
He would have died like so many other men who have come and gone and proclaimed a message of eternal life in some form of heaven. But Jesus was not just another guy who came to create a following. As God with us, He became man to offer all the world the promise of eternal life. Only Christ could be the perfect lamb of God, a perfect sacrifice to end all sacrifices that had been the hallmark of the Hebrew faith.
From an article by Anthony McRoy, Was Easter Borrowed from a Pagan Holiday:
“Anyone encountering anti-Christian polemics will quickly come up against the accusation that a major festival practiced by Christians across the globe—namely, Easter—was actually borrowed or rather usurped from a pagan celebration. I often encounter this idea among Muslims who claim that later Christians compromised with paganism to dilute the original faith of Jesus.”4
I would say that they (Muslims) have a valid point because from the outside looking in, when an unbeliever is examining the Christian faith seeking to find the answers from God who calls on His people to be holy as He is holy, they find something else. There are people in the world who are not ignorant of what paganism is and what Christianity ought to be, even if they have not trusted in Christ.
When an unbeliever questions the use of paganistic elements in a “Christian” celebration but the believer does not, there’s also a real problem.
McRoy continues: “The argument largely rests on the supposed pagan associations of the English and German names for the celebration (Easter in English and Ostern in German). It is important to note, however, that in most other European languages, the name for the Christian celebration is derived from the Greek word Pascha, which comes from pesach, the Hebrew word for Passover. Easter is the Christian Passover festival.”
No, 'Esaster' is NOT the Christian Passover celebration at all. How can it be when pagan elements have been mixed into the teaching?
He goes on: “neither the commemoration of Christ's death and resurrection nor its name are derived from paganism.”
His statement should be entirely accurate, however, the introduction of the Easter elements has done damage to the celebration of the Resurrection in my opinion.
I truly believe that the modern “celebration” of Easter minimizes the Resurrection of Jesus in favor of something that excites the sensual - The Easter Bunny that the kids all run to for pictures, the egg hunt and the candy that is a reward for celebrating Easter, and all of the elements that point to the fertility goddess rather than Christ. And I do understand. Parents want to see their children have fun, joy and excitement. It really is a vicarious thrill for parents to see their children enjoy themselves and quite possibly someone will think they are being a good parent by making their children happy this way.
But is that really the best for the child, spiritually speaking?
Just a very brief exploration of the internet uncovers countless sources tying Easter to the pagan goddess Eostre. There are many adherents today who worship her.
so far, I have very rarely heard a plausible lesson to bridge the teaching of the bunny and eggs to the Resurrection of the Savior.
I challenge any 'Christian' parent who has promoted the bunny and egg concept to examine what they taught their children about Christ while the kids chewed the ears off their chocolate bunny or during the hunt for eggs.
And think of this, the child is exposed to the visuals of “Easter”, long before that can even understand the meaning of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus who came to save them from the penalty of sin. What will stay with them longer? What will have a stronger impression upon their souls? I would say that the earliest impressions that are constantly reinforced year after year will be the hardest to change.
In my opinion, there is a huge 'leap' to say on one hand that the Word for the celebration of the resurrection is 'Easter', when the word used in the Bible is Pascha (Passover) to then say, without any support whatsoever, that Easter is the ‘Christian Passover’.
Brent Landau in his article (2), “Why Easter is called Easter, and other little-known facts about the holiday”, wrote this:
The naming of the celebration as “Easter” seems to go back to the name of a pre-Christian goddess in England, Eostre, who was celebrated at beginning of spring. The only reference to this goddess comes from the writings of the Venerable Bede, a British monk who lived in the late seventh and early eighth century. As religious studies scholar Bruce Forbes summarizes:
“Bede wrote that the month in which English Christians were celebrating the resurrection of Jesus had been called Eosturmonath in Old English, referring to a goddess named Eostre. And even though Christians had begun affirming the Christian meaning of the celebration, they continued to use the name of the goddess to designate the season.”
From a pagan website, https://www.northernpaganism.org/shrines/ostara/about.html
“The name "Eostre" (Old Germanic "Ostara"), is related to that of Eos, the Greek goddess of dawn, and both can be traced back to a Proto-Indo-European goddess of dawn. Her material is so scant that some scholars have speculated that she was not a goddess at all, but simply an invention of Bede, but it is unlikely that someone as heathen-phobic as Bede would have gone about inventing goddesses; he seems to have preferred to keep all things pagan at arm's length.” (5)
This only supports my view that Bede was totally against the use of “Easter” in reference to celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus.
From another pagan site:
“Eostre first makes her appearance in literature about thirteen hundred years ago in the Venerable Bede's Temporum Ratione. Bede tells us that April is known as Eostremonath, and is named for a goddess that the Anglo-Saxons honored in the spring. He says, "Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated "Paschal month", and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honor feasts were celebrated in that month."7
Landau seemed to think that Bede was supportive of the use of the pagan name for the holiday by the early English believers. The way I read the statement by Bede, I would believe that he was bothered greatly that anyone who claimed to believe in Jesus would continue to celebrate it by using the wrong term.
At least the second article from a pagan site offers the quote from Bede, that what Christians celebrated in the 8th century was to be known as Pascha, or Passover, rather than Easter, even if they fell back into their paganism and away from Christ.
One reason, in my opinion, that many Christians use the word Easter in association to the celebration of Christ’s resurrection is found in the King James Bible.
In Acts 12.4, in the KJV, we have this -
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.
The problem we find is that the original word, found in the Textus Receptus in not Eshtar, or Eostra, which would translate to Easter. The word in the TR is Pascha, meaning Passover.
Another version corrected this - 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.
The only problem with this is that the correction came way too late. The Church has already assimilated the elements of Easter into their celebration of the Resurrection.
The people who had been exposed to the message of Christ in the days of Bede, around the 7th century, were very pagan. Even though they were exposed to the Christian gospel, and some may have even trusted on Christ as Savior, they continued to practice their paganism along with Christianity, meaning, in my opinion, a lack of understanding of true faith in Christ as being the sole subject of our worship through faith. My opinion is that one cannot have faith in Buddha or any other god that comes along and have true faith in Christ for salvation.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
I believe that king James was most likely not a true believer in God and brought the English a version of the Bible that was to appease their desire for the Word but still used terminology that allowed the people to feel comfortable.
By adding the word Easter to his version of the Bible, the king would seem to support the common man’s faith in anything pagan and still make it seem as though he was for Christianity. In this way, he could Christianize the paganism and make it tolerable for those who truly believed. The saying that is common today that might have been in the mind of some back then is, “Well, at least they are going someplace for ‘church’”. Yes and no.
It’s great when people go to church if they are hearing the unadulterated Word preached, offering biblical doctrine and Theology. But when the doctrine is based on a bad version offering very poor ‘translation’ of the word, or using what some might call a ‘dynamic equivalent’, then all a preacher is doing is preaching heresy and blasphemy.
For all too long, people have tried to Christianize (sanitize) pagan celebrations by taking their rituals and saying they are going to celebrate Jesus.
But look at what using the wrong term for so many years has led to - namely, that people who do not believe in the resurrection of Christ also celebrate Easter in its modern expression. The bunny, the eggs, everything but looking to Christ for this particular calendar event.
Anne Theriault at The Belle Jar wrote this:
"Here’s the thing. Our Western Easter traditions incorporate a lot of elements from a bunch of different religious backgrounds. You can’t really say that it’s just about resurrection, or just about spring, or just about fertility and sex. You can’t pick one thread out of a tapestry and say, “Hey, now this particular strand is what this tapestry’s really about.” It doesn’t work that way; very few things in life do." (7)
Note this statement: “Western Easter traditions incorporate a lot of elements from a bunch of different religious backgrounds”.
If that is not reason enough to avoid the use of Easter and promoting the elements of the pagan celebration, I guess nothing will be.
According to the New Unger’s Bible Dictionary: “The word Easter is of Saxon origin, Eastra, the goddess of spring, in whose honour sacrifices were offered about Passover time each year. By the eighth century Anglo–Saxons had adopted the name to designate the celebration of Christ’s resurrection.” (9)
The reason I object to the use of 'Easter' to designate the Resurrection of the Lord is that it still points away from Christ, especially when people continue to celebrate the exact same was as those who do not believe in Christ.
Easter, or Eosturmonath, was a celebration to worship the goddess Eostre, the one who could grant fertility and virility, something very desired by people of every generation. Women want to have babies and men want to make babies, or at least enjoy the process. Crude as that seems, that’s the “basis” for Easter.
My conclusion is this:
The Christian who desires to honor the important celebration of the Resurrection may want to consider how the elements of the Easter celebration. Ask yourself, “How does Easter reflect my faith in Christ, especially when even a world of mostly unbelievers also celebrate Easter?”
How are you, in celebrating the Resurrection, portraying the death, burial, and resurrection of the Savior when you offer the children bunnies, eggs, jelly beans and other things?
How will you explain to your children that even though you do not believe in the practice of a pagan religion, that those who celebrate ‘Easter’ may do so.
Remember, your ‘Easter’ celebration as a Christian will probably very closely resemble the ‘Easter’ celebrated by the unbeliever. This will be confusing to children, as well as adults, and an end result could be that the ‘Easter’ celebration will overshadow the remembrance of the Resurrection of Christ.
I would encourage all professing believers to shed the ‘Easter’ traditions and begin to explore and apply the lessons of the Passover and the Resurrection of the Savior. You can still enjoy giving the children a Pascha basket that will have a chocolate cross, a white chocolate lamb, and, just for fun, you can throw in some other candy as well.
My wife and I have developed a theme of ‘Levi the lamb’ who tells the children a story of great joy because of the Passover.
We have begun to develop a coloring book with the story of ‘Levi’ so that the children can take it home and reread the lesson.
I believe that its very important for parents to lead their children toward God and not point them in the wrong direction.