Easter in the Bible
By Pastor R.S. Brewer
My thanks to Alexander Hislop for his book, “The Two Babylons” from which part of the information for this article is derived. Also, Dr. Sam Gipp, and others for their research and input into this article.
Because of the number of questions asked on this subject I thought it wise to address it publicly in church and make it available to all on the church website. I realize that we are at the end of the great falling away spoken of in II Thessalonians chapter 2, coupled with the fact that we are in the Laodicean era of the New Testament church. That being true, this will be met with some criticism by those who are steeped and enslaved by the traditions of men. However, Christians cannot make good Biblical decisions without knowledge and understanding. In fact, Christians are destroyed because of a lack of knowledge. (Hosea 4:6) I did not know these things until I was taught. Initially, I rejected the truth because I could not believe that I had been misled by those who were misled who really did/do love me. They were deceived and passed that deception on to me. Even today, I found that what I had accepted as truth in another area, was found not in the Bible but in the traditions I had been taught in my early years. Again, I had accepted it as truth, without question. To use a modern day expression, Boy! That’s a bummer! However, I will adjust accordingly. When you learn better, you ought to do better.
Col 2:8 - Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
Mark 7:5 - Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? 6He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 7Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. 8For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. 9And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. 10For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: 11But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. 12And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; 13Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.
Isn't "Easter" in Acts 12:4 a mistranslation of the word "pascha?" I was asked. I was told it should have been translated as "Passover." Is that true?
No, "pascha" is properly translated "Easter" in Acts 12:4 as the following explanation will show. God preserved His Word in the Av 1611. It is correct, always. However, our lack of knowledge causes us to doubt and question what we do not understand. The explanation is as follows:
The Greek word which is translated "Easter" in Acts 12:4 is the word "pascha". This word appears twenty-nine times in the New Testament. Twenty-eight of those times the word is properly translated "Passover," referencing the night when the Lord passed over Egypt and killed all the firstborn of Egypt (Exodus 12:12), thus setting Israel free from four hundred years of bondage. Remember, translation is not simply a transfer of basic word definitions from one language to another. Proper translation must take into account the contextual setting, the mood, the speaker, and other intangibles for the final and true meaning to any translated word. Faith in God to keep His promise to preserve His Word is the paramount foundation for understanding the Bible. The many opponents to the concept of having a perfect Bible have made much of this translation of "pascha".
Coming to the word "Easter" in God's Authorized Bible, they seize upon it imagining that they have found proof that the Bible is not perfect. Fortunately for lovers of the word of God, they are wrong. Easter, as we know it, comes from the ancient pagan festival of Astarte. Also known as Ishtar (pronounced "Easter"). This festival has always been held late in the month of April. It was, in its original form, a celebration of the earth "regenerating" itself after the winter season. The festival involved a celebration of reproduction. For this reason the common symbols of Easter festivities were the rabbit (the same symbol as "Playboy" magazine), and the egg. Both are known for their reproductive abilities. (Thus the Bunnies and eggs) At the center of attention was Astarte, the female deity. She is known in the Bible as the "queen of heaven" (Jeremiah 7:18; 44:17-25). She is the mother of Tammuz (Ezekiel 8:14) who was also her husband! These perverted rituals would take place at sunrise on Easter morning (Ezekiel 8:13-16). (Thus, Easter Sunrise Services) From the references in Jeremiah and Ezekiel, we can see that the true Easter has never had any association with Jesus Christ. Pagan Ishtar comes from ancient Babylon.
Now we have a problem. Even though the Jewish Passover was held in mid April (the fourteenth) and the pagan festival Easter was held later the same month, how do we know that Herod was referring to Easter in Acts 12:4 and not the Jewish Passover? If he was referring to the Passover, the translation of "pascha" as "Easter" is incorrect. If he was indeed referring to the pagan holy day of Easter, then the King James Bible (1611) must truly be the very word and words of God for it is the only Bible in print today which has the correct reading. Herod was pagan and therefore would never observe a holy day for the Lord Jesus. At the time Acts 12:4 occurred, the Passover had already occurred and was well into the days of unleavened bread. (vs. 3)
To unravel the confusion concerning "Easter" in verse 4, we must consult our final authority, The Bible. The key which unlocks the puzzle is found not in verse 4, but in verse 3. (Then were the days of unleavened bread... ) To secure the answer that we seek, we must find the relationship of the Passover to the days of unleavened bread. We must keep in mind that Peter was arrested during the "days of unleavened bread" (Acts 12:3).
Our investigation will need to start at the first Passover. This was the night in which the LORD smote all the firstborn in Egypt. The Israelites were instructed to kill a lamb and strike its blood on the two side posts and the upper door post (Exodus 12:4, 5). Let us now see what the Bible says concerning the first Passover, and the days of unleavened bread.
"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.
Here in Exodus 12:13 we see how the Passover got its name. The LORD said that He would "pass over" all of the houses which had the blood of the lamb marking the door.
After the Passover (Exodus 12:13, 14), we find that seven days shall be fulfilled in which the Jews were to eat unleavened bread. These are the days of unleavened bread!
In verse 18 we see that dates for the observance were April 14th through the 21st. This religious observance is stated more clearly in Numbers 28:16-18:
in the fourteenth day of the first month is the Passover of the LORD.
In verse 16 we see that the Passover is only considered to be the 14th of the month. On the next morning, the 15th begins the "days of unleavened bread."
16:1-8: "Observe the month of Abib (April), and keep the Passover
unto the LORD thy God: for in the month of Abib the LORD thy God brought thee
forth out of Egypt by night.
Here in Deuteronomy we see again that the Passover is sacrificed on the first night (Deuteronomy 16:1). It is worth noting that the Passover was to be celebrated in the evening (vs.6) not at sunrise (Ezekiel 8:13-16).
In II Chronicles 8:13 we see that the feast of unleavened bread was one of the three Jewish feasts to be kept during the year.
II Chronicles 8:13: "Even after a certain rate every day, offering according to the commandment of Moses, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts, three times in the year, even in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles."
Whenever the Passover was kept, it always preceded the feast of unleavened bread. In II Chronicles 30 some Jews who were unable to keep the Passover in the first month were allowed to keep it in the second. But the dates remained the same.
II Chronicles 30:l5,21: "Then they killed the Passover on the fourteenth day of the second month: and the priests and the Levites were ashamed, and sanctified themselves, and brought in the burnt offerings into the house of the LORD. And the children of lsrael that were present at Jerusalem kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with great gladness: and the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day by day, singing with loud instruments unto the LORD."
Ezra 6:19,22: "And the children of the captivity kept the Passover upon the fourteenth day of the first month. And kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy: for the LORD had made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel."
We see then, from studying what the BIBLE has to say concerning the subject that the order of events went as follows:
It must also be noted that whenever the Passover is mentioned in the New Testament, the reference is always to the meal, to be eaten on the night of April 14th not the entire week. The days of unleavened bread are NEVER referred to as the Passover. (It must be remembered that the angel of the Lord passed over Egypt on one night, not seven nights in a row.
Now let us look at Acts 12:3, 4:
"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."
Verse 3 shows that Peter was arrested during the days of unleavened bread (April 15-21). The Bible says: "Then were the days of unleavened bread." The Passover (April 14th) had already come and gone. Herod could not possibly have been referring to the Passover in his statement concerning Easter. The next Passover was a year away! But the pagan holiday of Easter was just a few days away. Remember! Herod was a pagan Roman who worshipped the "queen of heaven". He was NOT a Jew. He had no reason to keep the Jewish Passover. Some might argue that he wanted to wait until after the Passover for fear of upsetting the Jews. There are two grievous faults in this line of thinking.
First, Peter was no longer considered a Jew. He had repudiated Judaism. The Jews would have no reason to be upset by Herod's actions.
Second, he could not have been waiting until after the Passover because he thought the Jews would not kill a man during a religious holiday. They had killed Jesus during Passover (Matthew 26:17-19, 47). They were also excited about Herod's murder of James. Anyone knows that a mob possesses the courage to do violent acts during religious festivities, not after.
In further considering Herod's position as a Roman, we must remember that the Herods were well known for celebrating (Matthew 14:6-11). In fact, in Matthew chapter 14 we see that a Herod was even willing to kill a man of God during one of his celebrations.
It is elementary to see that Herod, in Acts 12, had arrested Peter during the days of unleavened bread, after the Passover. The days of unleavened bread would end on the 21st of April. Shortly thereafter would come Herod's celebration of pagan Easter. Herod had not killed Peter during the days of unleavened bread simply because he wanted to wait until Easter. Since it is plain that both the Jews (Matthew 26:17-47) and the Romans (Matthew 14:6-11) would kill during a religious celebration, Herod's opinion seemed that he was not going to let the Jews "have all the fun." He would wait until his own pagan festival and see to it that Peter died in the excitement.
Thus we see that it was God's providence which had the Spirit-filled translators of our Bible (King James) to CORRECTLY translate "pascha" as "Easter". It most certainly did not refer to the Jewish Passover. In fact, to change it to "Passover" would confuse the reader and make the truth of the situation unclear
For the Christian, Jesus was our Passover Lamb. Resurrection Sunday is what we should be observing. Not the Passover, nor the Pagan feast of Ishtar or Easter. Jesus arose from the dead, in April, and on the first day of the week.
Matt 28:1, 2: - In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.
Mark 16:2 – 4, - And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. Vs 9, 10 - Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.
Luke 24:1 - Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulcher
John 20:1 - The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
John 20:19 - Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 20And when he had so said, he showed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.
However, there is no command or custom to observe the resurrection as a Holy Day. The memorial supper is what the Christian is to observe until He comes.
I Corinthians 11:23 -26 - For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come.
It is no coincidence that the Last Supper was the Passover Supper. Our Passover Lamb, our Lord Jesus, fulfills the prophetic aspect of the Exodus Passover by offering Himself on the Day of the Passover which we call the Last Supper (Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, John 18.) Jesus was crucified on Thursday morning and in the tomb by 6:00 PM. On Sunday morning, the third day, very early, sometime after 6:00 AM, Jesus arose from the dead. There is a Biblical precedence for a local New Testament Church to assemble on Sunday, remembering our Passover Lamb’s sacrifice and resurrection, and memorializing Him in the Lord’s Supper. Easter/Ishtar is not Christian but pagan and it, with all its elements, eggs and bunnies, is not for the Christian who chooses to be different and make a difference.