What do chocolate rabbits, colorful eggs, hot cross buns, and new clothes have to do with a supposed Sunday resurrection? How could this have anything to do with Jesus Christ when this custom seems to predate Christ’s birth? To get to the truth we need to go back in time and do some detective work.
Evidence from History
We need to set the controls of our time machine back to about 8 B.C. This is about 4 years before the birth of Christ. The people we are going to be visiting are the Germanic people occupying Europe. In the Germanic town on this particular Saturday night, called Sunnun-abend, around the 21st of March, the people will gather just on the edge of town and take wood and pile it around a tree and set it on fire. While the tree is being consumed the people will kneel and pray to Sunna, the goddess of the dawn asking her to bring back the warm spring days.
The next morning the people will gather back at the sacrificed tree and look to the east and as the sun rises, symbolizing Sunna, the people will sing praises to their goddess and thank her for answering their prayers and accepting their sacrifice. To celebrate this joyous occasion, there will be games for the children, including a hunt for colored eggs in the grass.
Getting back in our time machine and moving forward in time to several centuries after Christ’s death we find that the same festival is taking place honoring the goddess of dawn but her name has been changed to Eostre. This is because the Persians had influenced the Germans and Assyrian peoples that worshipped a goddess called Ishtar. The Germans found this difficult to pronounce and it came out the way we say “Easter” today. The easter eggs and even the rabbit were symbols of fertility that the spring season was to bring the people, their land, and animals. Other stories told of a god and goddess where the god died and was revived by the goddess. These stories spoke of Tammuz and Ishtar, Adonis and Inanna, Attis and Cybele, and, in Egypt, Osiris and Isis. Each one of these variations included a resurrection in the spring to bring back the warm growing season.
To help the Roman religion grow and prosper, it was decided to incorporate this very popular festival of worshipping the sun and just change the deity from Ishtar to Jesus, “the true Sun. ” This compromise added scores of “believers” to the Roman church.
What the Bible says
1. Where is Easter mentioned in the Bible?
ACTS 12:4 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. (KJV)
ACTS 12:4 So when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after Passover. (NKJ)
COMMENT: Only in the King James Version is Pascha translated Easter. All other versions are correctly translated “Passover.” Notice what Vine’s New Testament Dictionary says about the word translated “Easter”: “Easter 1, pascha,  mistranslated ‘Easter’ 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×, AV, denotes the Passover (RV). The phrase ‘after the Passover’ signifies after the whole festival was at an end. 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 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.”
2. What difference does it make where the festival came from if we are celebrating for the right reason?
ISAIAH 1:14 Your New Moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them.
COMMENT: God is not interested in how we think we should serve or honor Him. He has shown us through His Word (the Bible) how He is to be worshipped.
3. What does God tell us of man’s ability to rationalize issues?
PROVERBS 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.
4. Humans left to their own reasoning are easily led astray. We need guidance. Where do we find such guidance?
MATTHEW 4:4 But He answered and said, “It is written, `Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”
5. What service did Christ observe in the spring of the year?
LUKE 22:1,8 Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called Passover. (8) And He sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat.”
COMMENT: Because the Feast of Unleavened Bread immediately follows Passover (Nisan 14), in time the Jews customarily included the Feast of Unleavened Bread when speaking of Passover. However, they are distinct, and the Passover itself was instituted by God as a memorial.
6. What was this memorial all about?
EXODUS 12:11-12 “`And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD’S Passover. `For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike 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. ‘”
7. Is this event still to be celebrated today?
EXODUS 12:14,24 “`So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance. (24) “And you shall observe this thing as an ordinance for you and your sons forever.”
8. Some say the Passover was only for the Israelites. Christians today are spiritual Israelites (Romans 2:28-29 Romans 2:28-29 28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
American King James Version×; Galatians 6:16 Galatians 6:16And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and on the Israel of God.
American King James Version×). What does this fact imply about the continuing need to keep this feast?
9. Was it the resurrection or the sacrifice that Christ wanted us to focus on?
JOHN 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
LUKE 22:15,19,20 Then He [Jesus] said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (19-20) And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.”
COMMENT: Christ’s resurrection is important, but the focus of Passover is on the sacrifice, Christ dying for mankind thus paying for our sins.
10. What did the disciples do to commemorate the Passover?
1 CORINTHIANS 11:23-26 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.
11. What differences do you see in the way Jesus and His disciples kept the Passover and in the way ancient Israel was taught to commemorate it? Explain the significance of the changes Christ made in the Passover ceremony.
The question is whether or not we are willing to trust and obey God. To learn obedience based on faith is of decisive importance not only for our life here and now, but also for all eternity.
1. If you were God, how would you feel about your people honoring you with ceremonies they learned from others?
2. Explain the difference between Easter and Passover.
3. Why do Christians today not celebrate Passover in the same manner as ancient Israel?