Christians Can Learn From the Origins of Easter

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Christians Can Learn From the Origins of Easter

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The story behind the commonality and contrasts of today and how they developed is a vital part of the legacy of contemporary Christianity.

The New Testament reveals that Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul and the early Church kept the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread, not Easter. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica (Ninth Edition): "There is no trace of the celebration of Easter as a Christian festival in the New Testament or the writings of the apostolic fathers . . . . The first Christians . . . continued to observe the Jewish festivals . . . as commemorations of events of which these had been the shadows. The Passover, ennobled by the thought of Christ the Paschal Lamb, continued to be celebrated . . . , and became the Christian Easter."

The history of this transformation should be taught in all churches as part of heritage of the Spring festival season.

The motivating force behind the changeover from Passover to Easter was a fierce determination to distance Christianity from Judaism. The Bible establishes the date of Passover as the 14th of Nisan (the first month of the Hebrew calendar). Early Christians continued this observation as a memorial of Christ's death.

Others (especially non-Jews) began celebrating the festival on Sunday in honor of Christ's resurrection. The bitter controversy that erupted led to a decision by the Roman Emperor Constantine requiring all Christians to adopt the same day. Church historian Philip Schaff points out that "the feast of the resurrection was thenceforth required to be celebrated everywhere on a Sunday, and never on the day of the Jewish Passover . . . . The leading motive for this regulation was opposition to Judaism" (emphasis added).

The biblical name "Passover" was changed to "Easter," the name of the Teutonic goddess of Spring. The Passover lamb was replaced with Easter ham (biblically forbidden as "unclean" and not to be eaten). Searching for and removing leavening from homes ceased, and Easter egg hunts began. The evening Passover service gave way to an Easter sunrise service.

Over the centuries Easter has become enshrined as an almost universally observed Christian tradition. Time has also mellowed the anti-Semitic attitudes that spawned the massive changes from Passover to Easter. The replacement of biblical injunctions with customs from other religions is seldom questioned today.

However, we would be well-advised to reconsider the biblical instructions regarding Passover and other Holy Days God established. Paul tell us that these festivals offer "a shadow of things to come" in God's plan of redemption (Colossians 2:16 Colossians 2:16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
American King James Version×
-17). Jesus even warned that it is possible to worship God in vain by following humanly devised traditions rather than the true forms of worship described in the Bible (Matthew 15:9 Matthew 15:9But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
American King James Version×
; 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.
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).

I do not want to rain on anyone's Easter parade. But shouldn't you want to learn about the Holy Days of the Bible, the ones that Jesus Christ, the apostles and the early Church observed? Shouldn't you want to learn why they considered these days so important and how they teach us about Jesus Christ and His role in God's plan?