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Would Jesus Christ Celebrate Easter?

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Would Jesus Christ Celebrate Easter?

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Each spring the excitement of Easter fills the air. Many churches prepare special Easter programs about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. At home mothers color eggs, and parents hide the brightly colored symbols of Easter around the house and lawn so that, come Easter morning, their children can excitedly hunt for them.

Stuffed Easter bunnies and chocolate rabbits are seen everywhere in the weeks leading up to this major religious observance. Then there are the Easter sunrise services, where churchgoers gather to hear about Jesus' resurrection and honor that miraculous event by watching the sun come up in the east.

But what do colored eggs and the Easter Bunny have to do with Jesus Christ's resurrection? How did these seemingly irreligious symbols come to be associated with that event?

Can we find any historical or biblical record of Jesus or His disciples observing Easter or teaching parents and children to dye eggs and display bunnies on this holiday? Did Jesus or His apostles instruct any of His followers to meet to honor His resurrection at sunrise on Easter Sunday—or at any other time, for that matter?

If Easter was not sanctioned by Jesus or instituted by His apostles, then where did Easter come from? In other words, if Jesus were living among us as a flesh-and-blood human being, would He celebrate Easter or encourage others to do so?

Answers to these questions are readily available. Some may take a little research, but they become clear when we look into history and the Bible.

The apostles' record on Easter

As surprising as this may sound, nowhere in the New Testament can you find any reference to Easter. In the King James Version of the Bible (in Acts 12:4 Acts 12:4And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.
American King James Version×
) you do find the word Easter, but it is a blatantly erroneous mistranslation that has been corrected in virtually every other Bible translation.

The original Greek word there is pascha, correctly translated as “Passover ” in virtually every modern version of the Bible everywhere it appears in the Scriptures. It refers to the biblical Passover originally instituted when God freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12:1-14 Exodus 12:1-14 1 And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt saying, 2 This month shall be to you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. 3 Speak you to all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: 4 And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: you shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: 6 And you shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. 7 And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. 8 And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the entrails thereof. 10 And you shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remains of it until the morning you shall burn with fire. 11 And thus shall you eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD’s passover. 12 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. 13 And the blood shall be to you for a token on the houses where you are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. 14 And this day shall be to you for a memorial; and you shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; you shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.
American King James Version×
).

The original apostles, from the inception of the New Testament Church to near the end of the first century, when the apostle John died, left absolutely no record of observing Easter or teaching others to do so. From Jesus to John, not one of the apostles gave even the slightest hint of celebrating or advocating the observance of what we know today as Easter Sunday.

However, that doesn't mean the early Church did not hold to specific religious observances. The apostle Paul, some 25 years after Jesus' death and resurrection, plainly told members of the church at Corinth that they should continue to observe the Passover as Christ commanded.

Paul wrote: “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, 'Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.' In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.'

“For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes. Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:23-27 1 Corinthians 11:23-27 23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered to you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24 And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25 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 you, as oft as you drink it, in remembrance of me. 26 For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death till he come. 27 Why whoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
American King James Version×
).

Paul was concerned that the Church members in Corinth observe the Passover in the right way, with reverence and proper comprehension of its meaning.

The writings of Paul and of Luke, his traveling companion and author of the book of Acts, regularly mention keeping the weekly Sabbath day and the biblical festivals listed in Leviticus 23. But Easter is conspicuously absent (1 Corinthians 5:6-8 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 6 Your glorying is not good. Know you not that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
American King James Version×
; 16:8; Acts 2:1-4 Acts 2:1-4 1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat on each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
American King James Version×
; 13:42, 44; 17:1-3; 18:4; 20:6, 16).

Since Easter wasn't introduced by Jesus or the apostles, where did it come from, and how did it come to be such an accepted part of traditional Christianity?

The origin of Easter

It's not that difficult to trace the surprising origins of Easter and what it really represents. Many scholarly works show that Easter is a pre-Christian religious holiday, one that was created and developed long before Jesus' time and carried forward to the modern era through such empires as Babylon, Persia, Greece and finally Rome.

Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words notes: “The term 'Easter' is not of Christian origin. It is another form of Astarte, one of the titles of the Chaldean [Babylonian] goddess, the queen of heaven. The festival of Pasch [Passover] held by Christians in post-apostolic times was a continuation of the Jewish feast … 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” (W.E. Vine, 1985, “Easter”).

Alexander Hislop, in his book The Two Babylons (1959), explores the origins of Easter. He discovered that a form of Easter was kept in many nations, not necessarily only those that professed Christianity: “What means the term Easter itself? … It bears its Chaldean origin on its very forehead. Easter is nothing else than Astarte, one of the titles of Beltis, the queen of heaven, whose name, as pronounced by the people of Nineveh, was … Ishtar” (p. 103).

Easter and the practices associated with it can be traced back to various pagan rituals. Hislop explains that “the forty days' abstinence of Lent was directly borrowed from the worshippers of the Babylonian goddess” (p. 104). In Egypt a similar 40-day period of abstinence “was held expressly in commemoration of Adonis or Osiris, the great mediatorial god” (p. 105).

A pre-Christian spring festival

How, then, did 40 days' abstinence come to be associated with a resurrection? Hislop continues: “Among the pagans this Lent seems to have been an indispensable preliminary to the great annual festival in commemoration of the death and resurrection of Tammuz, which was celebrated by alternate weeping and rejoicing” (p. 105).

Tammuz was a chief Babylonian deity and husband of the goddess Ishtar. Worship of Tammuz was so widespread in ancient times that it even spread into Jerusalem. In Ezekiel 8:12-18 Ezekiel 8:12-18 12 Then said he to me, Son of man, have you seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? for they say, the LORD sees us not; the LORD has forsaken the earth. 13 He said also to me, Turn you yet again, and you shall see greater abominations that they do. 14 Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the LORD’s house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz. 15 Then said he to me, Have you seen this, O son of man? turn you yet again, and you shall see greater abominations than these. 16 And he brought me into the inner court of the LORD’s house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east. 17 Then he said to me, Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger: and, see, they put the branch to their nose. 18 Therefore will I also deal in fury: my eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in my ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them.
American King James Version×
God describes that worship and calls it an abomination—something repugnant and disgusting to Him.

The Babylonians held a great festival every spring to celebrate Tammuz's death and supposed resurrection many centuries before Christ walked the earth (see “The Resurrection Connection” on page 18). Hislop comprehensively documents evidence showing that Easter's origins precede the modern Christian holiday by more than 2,000 years!

Hislop cites the fifth-century writings of Cassianus, a Catholic monk of Marseilles, France, on the subject of Easter's being a pagan custom rather than a New Testament observance. “It ought to be known,” the monk stated, “that the observance of the forty days [i.e., the observance of Lent] had no existence, so long as the perfection of that primitive Church remained inviolate” (p. 104).

Sir James Frazer describes Easter ceremonies entering into the established church: “When we reflect how often the Church has skillfully contrived to plant the seeds of the new faith on the old stock of paganism, we may surmise that the Easter celebration of the dead and risen Christ was grafted upon a similar celebration of the dead and risen Adonis [the Greek name for Tammuz], which … was celebrated in Syria at the same season” ( The Golden Bough, 1993, p. 345).

Why eggs and rabbits?

What about other customs associated with Easter? One Catholic writer explains how eggs and rabbits came to be connected with Easter. You will quickly notice an absence of any link or reference to the Holy Bible when it comes to these rituals:

“The egg has become a popular Easter symbol. Creation myths of many ancient peoples center in a cosmogenic egg from which the universe is born. In ancient Egypt and Persia friends exchanged decorated eggs at the spring equinox, the beginning of their New Year.

“These eggs were a symbol of fertility for them because the coming forth of a live creature from an egg was so surprising to people of ancient times. Christians of the Near East adopted this tradition, and the Easter egg became a religious symbol. It represented the tomb from which Jesus came forth to new life” (Greg Dues, Catholic Customs and Traditions, 1992, p. 101; emphasis added throughout).

Like eggs, rabbits came to be linked with Easter because they were potent symbols associated with ancient fertility rites. “Little children are usually told that the Easter eggs are brought by the Easter Bunny. Rabbits are part of pre-Christian fertility symbolism because of their reputation to reproduce rapidly. The Easter Bunny has never had a religious meaning” (p. 102).

Honest Bible scholars freely admit that Jesus never sanctioned this pre-Christian holiday, nor did His apostles. In the centuries to follow among those who called themselves Christian, Easter eventually supplanted the Passover, the biblical ceremony Jesus and the apostle Paul told Christians to observe.

This came to a head with the Emperor Constantine and the Council of Nicaea—almost three centuries after Jesus was killed and rose again.

Says The Encyclopaedia Britannica: “A final settlement of the dispute [over whether and when to observe Easter or Passover] was one among the other reasons which led 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'” (11th edition, pp. 828-829, “Easter”).

Constantine 's decision was a fateful turning point for Christianity. Those who remained faithful to the instruction of Jesus and the apostles would be outcasts, a small and persecuted minority (John 15:18-20 John 15:18-20 18 If the world hate you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love his own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
American King James Version×
). A vastly different set of beliefs and practices—recycled from ancient pre-Christian religions but dressed in a Christian cloak—would take hold among the majority.

What would Jesus do?

Since Easter (with all the pagan symbols that have come with it) was adopted by the Catholic Church centuries after Christ's ascension, should Christians observe this holiday and encourage others to do so?

To answer that question, let's go back to the title of this article, “Would Jesus Christ Celebrate Easter?”

He certainly could have told us to. So could the apostles, whose teaching and doctrine are preserved for us in the book of Acts and the epistles written by Paul, Peter, James, Jude and John. But nowhere do we find a hint of support for Easter or anything remotely resembling it. What we do find, as pointed out earlier, is clear instruction from Jesus and Paul to keep the Passover and other biblical—and truly Christian—observances.

Holy Scripture does not support this pre-Christian holiday and, in fact, condemns such celebrations. Because Scripture condemns pagan practices and the worship of false gods (Deuteronomy 12:29-32 Deuteronomy 12:29-32 29 When the LORD your God shall cut off the nations from before you, where you go to possess them, and you succeed them, and dwell in their land; 30 Take heed to yourself that you be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before you; and that you inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. 31 You shall not do so to the LORD your God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hates, have they done to their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. 32 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: you shall not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
American King James Version×
), we know that God the Father and Jesus His Son have no interest in Easter and do not approve of it.

Jesus, in fact, is diametrically opposed to religious rituals that supposedly honor Him but in reality are rooted in the worship of false gods. He makes clear the difference between pleasing God and pleasing men: “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men … All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition'” (Mark 7:6-9 Mark 7:6-9 6 He answered and said to them, Well has Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 7 However, in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. 8 For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things you do. 9 And he said to them, Full well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your own tradition.
American King James Version×
).

Easter is a tradition of men, not a commandment of God. But it's more than that. It is a pagan tradition of men that, like other traditions involved in the worship of false gods, is abhorrent to the true God. Jesus and His apostles would never sanction its observance because it mingles paganism with supposedly Christian symbolism and ritual. It is rooted in ancient pre-Christian fertility rites that have nothing to do with Jesus.

In reality, most of the trappings associated with Easter reveal that the holiday is actually a fraud pawned off on unsuspecting and well-intentioned people. God wants us to worship in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24 John 4:23-24 23 But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
American King James Version×
), not to recycle ancient customs used to worship other gods.

Even the timing of the events used to justify celebrating Jesus' resurrection on a Sunday morning—that He was crucified on the afternoon of Good Friday and resurrected before dawn on Sunday morning—are demonstrably false, as an examination of the Scriptures shows.

For those who want concrete proof that He was indeed the Messiah and Savior of mankind, Jesus made a promise: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:39-40 Matthew 12:39-40 39 But he answered and said to them, An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: 40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
American King James Version×
).

Try as some might, there is no way to calculate three days and three nights from late Friday afternoon to Sunday morning before daylight. At most, this amounts to barely more than a day and a half. Either Jesus was mistaken, or those who say He was crucified on a Friday and resurrected on a Sunday are mistaken. You can't have it both ways.

Jesus' instructions remain consistent

If Jesus walked the dusty roads of Galilee today, would He celebrate Easter? Certainly not. But He would be consistent because He does not change (Hebrews 13:8 Hebrews 13:8Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
American King James Version×
). For instance, He would keep the annual Passover in the same manner as He instructed His followers to keep it (1 Corinthians 11:23-26 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered to you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24 And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25 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 you, as oft as you drink it, in remembrance of me. 26 For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death till he come.
American King James Version×
; John 13:15-17 John 13:15-17 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. 17 If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.
American King James Version×
). And Jesus would observe the Days of Unleavened Bread in the way He inspired Paul to instruct early Christians (1 Corinthians 5:6-8 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 6 Your glorying is not good. Know you not that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
American King James Version×
).

Anyone who wants to be right with God, who wants to be a true disciple of Christ, the Master Teacher, will carefully examine his beliefs and practices to see whether they agree with the Bible. Such a person will not try to honor God with ancient idolatrous practices, violating His explicit commands (Deuteronomy 12:29-32 Deuteronomy 12:29-32 29 When the LORD your God shall cut off the nations from before you, where you go to possess them, and you succeed them, and dwell in their land; 30 Take heed to yourself that you be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before you; and that you inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. 31 You shall not do so to the LORD your God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hates, have they done to their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. 32 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: you shall not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
American King James Version×
; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 14 Be you not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what concord has Christ with Belial? or what part has he that believes with an infidel? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? for you are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Why come out from among them, and be you separate, said the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. 18 And will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, said the Lord Almighty.
American King James Version×
; 7:1). Easter, as we have seen, is filled with idolatrous trappings.

Simply claiming that something is Christian or is done to honor God doesn't make it acceptable to God. Easter doesn't represent a resurrected Jesus Christ. Rather—difficult as it may be to admit—it merely continues the practices pagans followed thousands of years ago to honor their nonexistent gods. If we are to escape the calamities prophesied to come on those who place the ways of this world ahead of God, then we must repent of following traditions that dishonor Him (Revelation 18:1-5 Revelation 18:1-5 1 And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. 2 And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. 3 For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. 4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that you be not partakers of her sins, and that you receive not of her plagues. 5 For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.
American King James Version×
).

God wants us to honor and obey Him according to His instructions in His Word. Then He can use us to represent His holy Son, our Savior and the Messiah, who will return to the earth. No greater calling can be extended to human beings. May you have the heart to seek understanding and God's perfect will! GN

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