Many people follow religious practices as they have been taught, assuming that what they believe and do is right. They take their beliefs for granted, and do not take the time to introspect or prove why they do the things that they do. With regard to Easter, many assume that since millions observe it in honour of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, they think it is found in the Bible and accept it as biblical. What is the authority for your belief? Is it the Bible? If so, let us examine what the Bible says regarding Easter celebration.
The Word ‘Easter’ Found in the Bible?
Some Bible translations like King James Version of Acts 12:4 says, “And when he [King Herod Agrippa I] had apprehended him [apostle Peter], 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 Greek word used for “Easter” here is pascha, rightly translated everywhere else in the Bible as “Passover.” If there is no word ‘Easter’ mentioned in the Bible, and if it was not practised by the apostles and the early Church as seen in the book of Acts, where did it come from?
Origin of Easter – Its Pagan Roots
Concerning the word ‘Easter,’ scholar, theologian, and expert in ancient languages, W. E. Vine says, “The term ‘Easter’ is not of Christian origin. It is another form of Astarte, one of the titles of the Chaldean goddess, the queen of heaven. The festival of Pasch [Passover] held by Christians in post-apostolic times was a continuation of the Jewish feast, but was not instituted by Christ, nor was it connected with Lent. From this Pasch the pagan festival of ‘Easter’ was quite distinct and was introduced into the apostate Western religion, as part of the attempt to adapt pagan festivals to Christianity” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words).
Soon after the global Flood in Gen. 6-9, Nimrod, the great-grandson of Noah, turned away from God and became an evil ruler. He created cities like Babel, Nineveh, Asshur, etc., all of which became cities having a lifestyle of evil and perversion. His mother was Semiramis. She married her own son Nimrod and that union produced an illegitimate son, Tammuz. When Nimrod died, Semiramis glorified Nimrod as the Sun god or Life Giver. He would later be known as Baal, and that false religion would be called as Baal worship. It was associated with idolatry, demon worship, human sacrifice and many evil practices.
Semiramis convinced the people that Tammuz was Nimrod reborn. Since people had been waiting for the promised Saviour since the beginning of humanity (Gen. 3:15), Semiramis persuaded them to believe that Tammuz was that Saviour and that he had been supernaturally conceived. The people not only worshipped Tammuz (or Nimrod reborn), but also Semiramis herself as the goddess of fertility. In other cultures, she has been known as Ishtar, Ashtur, Eastre, and even Easter. In Babylon, she was called Ishtar. In ancient Canaan and Phoenecia, she was known as Astarte. The Romans connected her with the planet Venus because it rises before the Sun or sets after it, which makes it appear to love the light (this means Venus loves the Sun god). In Greece, she was called Eostre (Greek word Eos meaning “dawn”), and in Germany, Ostara (from the German word Ost meaning “east,” which is the direction of dawn). She was one goddess with many names – the goddess of fertility, worshipped in springtime when all life was being renewed. According to tradition, Tammuz was killed by a wild boar and Semiramis instituted a springtime ritual following his death. This would be the origin of Easter. Legend says that through the power of Semiramis’ tears, Tammuz was ‘resurrected’ in the form of new vegetation which appeared on earth.
Easter was originally a celebration of Eastre, the goddess of spring, which involved a spirit of renewal. It was celebrated at Spring Equinox on March 21, the day when light is equal to darkness, and will continue to grow. As the bringer of light after a long dark winter, the goddess was often represented with the hare, an animal that represents the arrival of spring as well as the fertility of the season. Because of their prolific nature, rabbits have long been associated with fertility and its goddess, Ishtar. Encyclopaedia Britannica states, “The hare, the symbol of fertility in ancient Egypt, a symbol that was kept later in Europe…Its place has been taken by the Easter rabbit.”
Ancient Babylonians believed in a legend about an egg that fell into the Euphrates River from heaven and from which Queen Astarte (Ishtar or Semiramis) was ‘hatched.’ For the Egyptians, the egg symbolised the sun. According to a German myth, Ostara healed a wounded bird she found in the woods by changing it into a hare. Still partially a bird, the hare showed its gratitude to the goddess by laying eggs as gifts. The egg as a symbol of fertility and of renewed life goes back to the ancient Egyptians and Persians, who also had the custom of colouring and eating eggs during their spring festival.
All the traditions such as the Easter Bunny and the Easter egg have their roots in practices established by Semiramis. Though there is nothing Christian in any of these, many blindly follow them not knowing that they are observing a pagan custom.
Is Easter Evil?
What does the Bible say about ‘Easter’? Judges 2:11-13 says, “Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord … They forsook the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtoreths [Easter].” Because of this sin, God allowed His children to be taken from their land into captivity. In Judges 10:6, seeing Israel’s stubbornness, God calls their practices evil. The Israelites returned to Baal and Ashtoreth worship during the time of Samuel. 1 Sam. 7:3-4 says, “Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, “If you return to the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths from among you, … So the children of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only.” Pointing to the Israelites who perished in the wilderness, Paul the apostle wrote that those things which happened to the Israelites became our examples so that we should not lust or commit idolatry, and that they are written for our admonition (1 Cor. 10:1-11). Easter worship was always associated with the worship of Baal or sun worship, and God calls it evil.
Easter Substituted for Passover
Paul the apostle said, “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 …” (1 Cor. 5:7-8). Jesus Christ, as the Lamb of God (John 1:29; Acts 8:32; 1 Pet. 1:19; Rev. 5:6), replaced the Old Testament sacrificial lamb eaten on Passover evening each year. The New Testament symbols of bread and wine were instituted so that Christians could remember and proclaim the sacrificial work that Jesus did on the cross.
Early Christians kept the Passover, not Easter. Encyclopaedia Britannica says, “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 foreshadowed . . . Thus the Passover, with a new conception added to it, of Christ as the true Paschal Lamb…continued to be observed.” Furthermore, regarding Gentile Christians, it says, “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.” World Almanac says, “In the second century AD, Easter Day was, among Christians in Asia Minor [these would be the Gentile churches that Paul raised up in places such as Philippi, Colossae, Galatia, etc. – and he warned the Galatians (Gal. 4:9-10) about taking days such as Easter] the 14th of Nisan [or Abib] the seventh month of the [civil] Jewish calendar.” The date described here is not Easter Day, but rather the Passover – which was observed on the 14th day of the first month (Nisan) of the sacred calendar. The apostles and early New Testament Church did not observe Easter!
We see that Easter, a pagan festival with its pagan fertility symbols, was substituted for the God-ordained festivals that Jesus Christ, the apostles and the early Church observed. But this didn’t happen immediately. This was formally settled only in 325 AD, not based on biblical truth, but based on anti-Semitism and imperial power. Encyclopaedia Britannica says, “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.’ ” Those who continued to “follow the blindness of the Jews” (who continued to keep the biblical festivals kept by Jesus Christ and the apostles rather than the newly “Christianized” pagan Easter festival) were systematically persecuted by the powerful church-state alliance of Constantine’s Roman Empire.
Paganism and not Christianity
The British historian, Sir James Frazer commented on how the pagan practices and celebrations of Easter entered into the Roman Catholic Church. He said, “Taken altogether, the coincidences of the Christian with the heathen festivals are too close and too numerous to be accidental. They mark the compromise which the Church in the hour of its triumph was compelled to make with its vanquished yet still dangerous rivals [the empire’s competing pagan religions]. The inflexible Protestantism of the primitive missionaries, with their fiery denunciation of heathendom, had been exchanged for the supple policy, the easy tolerance, the comprehensive charity of shrewd ecclesiastics, who clearly perceived that if Christianity was to conquer the world it could do so only by relaxing the too rigid principles of its Founder, by widening a little the narrow gate which leads to salvation.”
To make Christianity more appealing to everyone, the Roman church authorities, with the patronage of the Roman Empire took the rituals and practices of pagan religions, renamed them as “Christian”, and created a form of Christianity with teachings and customs not related to the Church which Jesus actually founded. Genuine Christianity was forced to go underground due to persecution because its followers did not compromise.
Easter does not represent Jesus Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection, though it appears to do so to those who blindly accept religious tradition. In fact, it is a big distortion. We have seen that Easter belongs to the Babylonian goddess Astarte, or Ashtoreth, or Ishtar, whose worship is explicitly condemned in the Bible. Religious practices and fertility symbols associated with her cult existed long before Christ, and they have largely replaced and concealed the truth of His death and resurrection.
Even after knowing the facts, many still choose to celebrate Easter as a religious holiday. They may say that they are observing it to Jesus or the God of the Bible. But is it so? The Bible gives us the answer in this regard. One of the best examples of what God thinks about being worshipped using any of the practices and customs found in pagan religions is found in the book of Exod. 32:1-10. In this account, there is an amazing fact that can be easily overlooked. Through Aaron’s leadership, the Israelites adapted the symbols (idols seen in Exod. 32:2-4) and ceremonies (uncontrolled revelries and orgies seen in Exod. 32:6) used to worship Egyptian gods to worship the true God. In this incident, the passage does not mention that the Israelites used pagan practices to celebrate a feast to Baal, or Molech, or any false god. In fact, all throughout the event, the people thought that they were having a “feast to the Lord” (Exod. 32:4-6).
What did the Lord say? In Exod. 32:7-10, God says, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves … Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.” We see that God punished them because of their evil practices. God alone has the right to dictate how to worship Him. We need not mix God’s truth with anything else. The origin of Easter with its symbols are deeply rooted in pagan religion. Those who consider themselves believers in the God of the Bible need to take a prayerful look at their observance of Easter.
Anyone may ask, “Shouldn’t we remember Jesus’ resurrection on ‘Easter’ Sunday?” 2 Tim. 2:8 says, “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel.” The word “remember” is in the present imperative active voice, which carries the idea of continuous action in the present. In Greek grammar, the present imperative has a durative force. It denotes action in progress, or habitual action. We are instructed to remember the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus every day, and not on just one day in an year.
Does observing Easter please Jesus? Quoting Isa. 29:13, Jesus said, “In vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9). He also said, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). What will you decide? Will you worship God in spirit and truth, or continue in deception?