Easter vs. the Bible

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Easter vs. the Bible

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But if you look more closely at this holiday you'll see that, despite its Christian veneer, it has done much damage in obscuring the truth of Jesus' life, death and resurrection. It's a day built on a lie, not on the great truth of Jesus' atoning sacrifice. There are two main problems with the Easter celebration. The first is that its customs and practices are based in ancient paganism, not in the Word of God.

A day with unchristian origins

As with Christmas, we find that the popular customs associated with the Easter celebration—rabbits, Easter-egg hunts and sunrise services—have nothing to do with the biblical record of Jesus Christ's life, in this case His rising from the dead.

Where, then, did these practices originate?

The Encyclopaedia Britannica tells us, "As at Christmas, so also at Easter, popular customs reflect many ancient pagan survivals—in this instance, connected with spring fertility rites, such as the symbols of the Easter egg and the Easter hare or rabbit" (15th edition, Macropaedia, Vol. 4, p. 605, "Church Year").

The word Easter appears once in the King James Version of the Bible, in Acts 12:4, where it is a mistranslation. Reputable scholars and reference works point out that the Greek word rendered "Easter" in this verse is actually pascha, meaning Passover. Modern translations correctly translate this word "Passover"—as even the King James Version does in other verses (see Matthew 26:2, Matthew 26:17-19; Mark 14:12; 1 Corinthians 5:7).

Notice what Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words says about the term Easter here: "Pascha...mistranslated 'Easter' in Acts 12:4, KJV, denotes the Passover...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...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" (1985, p. 192, "Easter").

Easter's ancient history

The Chaldean deity Astarte is in fact mentioned in the Bible. She is referred to as "Ashtoreth the abomination of the Sidonians" (2 Kings 23:13) and, as Vine's mentions, "the Queen of Heaven," whose worship God condemned (Jeremiah 7:18; Jeremiah 44:24-28).

Francis Weiser, professor of philosophy at Boston College, provides these facts: "The origin of the Easter egg is based on the fertility lore of the Indo-European races...The Easter bunny had its origin in pre-Christian fertility lore. Hare and rabbit were the most fertile animals our fore-fathers knew, serving as symbols of abundant new life in the spring season" (Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, 1958, pp. 233, 236).

Fertility rites and customs were incorporated into religious practices early in history. After Adam and Eve rejected God in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), humanity looked for other explanations for life. Forces of nature and seasons that could not be controlled began to be viewed as gods, goddesses and supernatural powers to be worshipped and feared. Man soon created his own gods, contradicting God's instruction against idolatry (Exodus 20:3-6; Deuteronomy 5:7-10).

"The pagan nations made statues or images to represent the powers they worshiped. Most of these idols were in the form of animals or human beings. But sometimes the idols represented celestial powers, like the sun, moon, and stars; forces of nature, like the sea and the rain; or life forces, like death and truth…

"In time an elaborate system of beliefs in such natural forces was developed into mythology. Each civilization and culture had its own mythological structure, but the structures were often quite similar. The names of the gods may have been different, but their functions and actions were often the same. The most prominent myth to cross cultural lines was that of the fertility cycle. Many pagan cultures believed that the god of fertility died each year during the winter but was reborn each year in the spring. The details differed among cultures, but the main idea was the same" (Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 1995, "Gods, Pagan," p. 508).

In pagan mythology the sun represented life. The sun supposedly died around the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Complementing the rebirth of the sun were spring fertility rites, whose surviving symbols thread their way throughout Easter celebrations.

In addition to rabbits and eggs, another popular Easter custom had pre-Christian origins: "Also popular among Europeans and Americans on Easter is ham, because the pig was considered a symbol of luck in pre-Christian European culture" (The Encyclopedia of Religion, 1987, p. 558, "Easter").

God isn't pleased with mixing pagan practices with true worship

It's easy to see and prove the pagan and unchristian origins of the traditions associated with Easter. The question is why Christians should care whether Easter is pagan in origin. A popular opinion is that as long as the day is kept in honor of Jesus and His resurrection, it trumps any past pagan associations. Is this true?

God inspired the prophet Jeremiah to take Israel to task for their mixture of true religion and pagan practices. "Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the Gentiles are dismayed at them. For the customs of the peoples are futile…" (Jeremiah 10:2-3).

This echoed God's command to Israel when they entered the Promised Land: "The Lord your God will cut off before you the nations you are about to invade and dispossess. But when you have driven them out and settled in their land, and after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, 'How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.' You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates" (Deuteronomy 12:29-31, New International Version).

When you consider the unchristian and unbiblical pagan origins of Easter traditions and remember God's command to not be involved in the ways that other religions worship their gods, it becomes clear that God isn't pleased with such customs in worshiping His Son and commemorating Jesus' resurrection.

The second reason Easter isn't a proper way to worship Jesus and remember His resurrection is that it entirely obscures the facts of His life, death and resurrection. When you celebrate Easter, you're allowing yourself to be removed from the Passover.