Guest Post: An Examination of the Origins of Easter
(Editor’s Note: Real Truth is published by The Restored Church of God which says it teaches “all the true doctrines of God, as taught to Christ’s Church by the original apostles” and traces its roots directly to the first-century Church. The article offers one of the better-researched, more neutral examinations of Easter’s origins on the Internet. Several introductory paragraphs and occasional rhetoric questions have been excised, semi-colons converted into separate sentences and longer paragraphs broken into shorter ones for reader ease. The accompanying artwork is that of California’s Capitol.)
Easter — Its Ancient Origins
By David C. Pack, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief
The Real Truth, A Magazine Restoring Plain Understanding
March 10, 2007
Easter is a worldwide tradition involving many customs that people believe to be Christian.
What is the origin of Lent and sunrise services? How did rabbits, eggs and hot cross buns become associated with Christ’s Resurrection? Is Easter mentioned in the Bible? Did the apostles and early Church keep it? The answers will shock you!
Bible Authority for Easter?
The Bible is the source for all things Christian. Does it mention Easter? Yes.
Notice Acts 12:1. King Herod began to persecute the Church, culminating in the brutal death of the apostle James by sword. This pleased the Jews so much that the apostle Peter was also taken prisoner by Herod. The plan was to later deliver him to the Jews. Verse 3 says, “Then were the days of unleavened bread.” The New Testament Church was observing these feast days described in Leviticus 23.
Now read verse 4 of Acts 12: “And when he (Herod) had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions (16) of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.”
This passage is not talking about Easter. The word translated Easter is the Greek word pascha, derived from the Hebrew word pesach. There is no original Greek word for Passover), and it has only one meaning. It always means Passover—it can never mean Easter! For this reason, we find a Hebrew word used in the Greek New Testament. Once again, this Hebrew word can only refer to Passover. And other translations, including the Revised Standard Version, correctly render this word Passover.
Instead of endorsing Easter, this verse really proves that the Church was still observing the supposedly Jewish Passover ten years after the death of Christ!
There are absolutely no (other) verses, anywhere in the Bible, that authorize or endorse the keeping of Easter celebration. The Bible says nothing about Lent, eggs and egg hunts or baskets of candy.
The mistranslation of Acts 12:4 is a not-so-subtle attempt to insert a pagan festival into Scripture for the purpose of authorizing it.
When Easter Came to America
Easter has long been known to be a pagan festival! America’s founders knew this! A children’s book about the holiday, Easter Parade: Welcome Sweet Spring Time!, by Steve Englehart, p. 4, states:
“When the Puritans came to North America, they regarded the celebration of Easter—and the celebration of Christmas—with suspicion. They knew that pagans had celebrated the return of spring long before Christians celebrated Easter…for the first two hundred years of European life in North America, only a few states, mostly in the South, paid much attention to Easter.”
Not until after the Civil War did Americans begin celebrating this holiday: “Easter first became an American tradition in the 1870s” (p. 5).
The original 13 colonies of America began as a “Christian” nation, with the cry of “No king but King Jesus!” The nation did not observe Easter within an entire century of its founding.
Where Did Easter Come From?
Spring is in the air. Flowers and bunnies decorate the home. Father helps the children paint beautiful designs on eggs dyed in various colors. These eggs, which will later be hidden and searched for, are placed into lovely, seasonal baskets. The wonderful aroma of the hot cross buns mother is baking in the oven waft through the house. Forty days of abstaining from special foods will finally end the next day.
The whole family picks out their Sunday best to wear to the next morning’s sunrise worship service to celebrate the savior’s resurrection and the renewal of life. Everyone looks forward to a succulent ham with all the trimmings. It will be a thrilling day. After all, it is one of the most important religious holidays of the year.
This is a description of an ancient Babylonian family — 2,000 years before Christ — honoring the resurrection of their god, Tammuz, who was brought back from the underworld by his mother/wife, Ishtar , after whom the festival was named.
As Ishtar was actually pronounced “Easter” in most Semitic dialects, it could be said that the event portrayed here is, in a sense, Easter.
Of course, the occasion could easily have been a Phrygian family honoring Attis and Cybele. Or perhaps a Phoenician family worshipping Adonis and Astarte. Also fitting the description well would be a heretic Israelite family honoring the Canaanite Baal and Ashtoreth.
Or this depiction could just as easily represent any number of other pagan fertility celebrations of death and resurrection, including the modern Easter celebration as it has come to us through the Anglo-Saxon fertility rites of the goddess Eostre or Ostara. These are all the same festivals, separated only by time and culture.
The vast majority of ecclesiastical and secular historians agree that the name of Easter and the traditions surrounding it are deeply rooted in pagan religion. Notice the following quotes that demonstrate more about the true origin of how the modern Easter celebration got its name:
“Since Bede the Venerable (De ratione temporum 1:5) the origin of the term for the feast of Christ’s Resurrection has been popularly considered to be from the Anglo-Saxon Eastre, a goddess of spring…the Old High German plural for dawn, ‘eostarun,’ whence has come the German ‘Ostern,’ and our English Easter” (The New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967, Vol. 5, p. 6).
“The fact that vernal festivals were general among pagan peoples no doubt had much to do with the form assumed by the Eastern festival in the Christian churches. The English term Easter is of pagan origin.” (Albert Henry Newman, D.D., LL.D., A Manual of Church History, p. 299).
“On this greatest of Christian festivals, several survivals occur of ancient heathen ceremonies. To begin with, the name itself is not Christian but pagan. Ostara was the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of Spring” (Ethel L. Urlin, Festival, Holy Days, and Saints Days, p. 73).
“The name Easter comes to us from Ostera or Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, for whom a spring festival was held annually, as it is from this pagan festival that some of our Easter customs have come” (Hazeltine, p. 53).
“In Babylonia…the goddess of spring was called Ishtar. She was identified with the planet Venus, which, because…(it) rises before the Sun…or sets after it…appears to love the light.” This means Venus loves the sun-god. “In Phoenecia, she became Astarte; in Greece, Eostre (related to the Greek word Eos ,meaning ‘dawn’) and in Germany, Ostara (from the German word ost meaning ‘east’ — the direction of dawn).” (Englehart, p. 4).
As we have seen, many names are interchangeable for the more well-known Easter. Pagans typically used many different names for the same god or goddess. Nimrod, the Bible figure who built the city of Babylon (Gen. 10:8), is an example. He was worshipped as Saturn, Vulcan, Kronos, Baal, Tammuz, Molech and others but he was always the same god—the fire or sun god universally worshipped in nearly every ancient culture.
The goddess Easter was no different. She was one goddess with many names—the goddess of fertility, worshipped in spring when all life was being renewed.
The widely-known historian Will Durant, in his famous and respected work Story of Civilization, pp. 235, 244-245, writes, “Ishtar — Astarte to the Greeks, Ashtoreth to the Jews — interests us not only as analogue of the Egyptian Isis and prototype of the Grecian Aphrodite and the Roman Venus but as the formal beneficiary of one of the strangest of Babylonian customs…known to us chiefly from a famous page in Herodotus: Every native woman is obliged, once in her life, to sit in the temple of Venus (Easter), and have intercourse with some stranger.”
Is it any wonder that the Bible speaks of the religious system that has descended from that ancient city as, “Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth” (Rev. 17:5)?
Eggs, Egg Hunts and Easter
Eggs have always been associated with the Easter celebration. Nearly every culture in the modern world has a long tradition of coloring eggs in beautiful and different ways. I once examined a traveling display of many kinds of beautifully decorated egg designs that represented the styles and traditions of virtually every country of modern Europe.
Notice the following:
“The origin of the Easter egg is based on the fertility lore of the Indo-European race. The egg to them was a symbol of spring. In Christian times, the egg had bestowed upon it a religious interpretation, becoming a symbol of the rock tomb out of which Christ emerged to the new life of His resurrection” (Francis X. Weiser, Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, p. 233).
This is a direct example of exactly how pagan symbols and customs are “Christianized,” i.e., Christian-sounding names are superimposed over pagan customs.
“Around the Christian observance of Easter … folk customs have collected, many of which have been handed down from the ancient ceremonial … symbolism of European and Middle Eastern pagan spring festivals. For example, eggs … have been very prominent as symbols of new life and resurrection” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1991 ed., Vol. 4, p. 333).
Finally, the following comes from Egyptian Belief and Modern Thought, James Bonwick, pp. 211-212:
“Eggs were hung up in the Egyptian temples. Bunsen calls attention to the mundane egg, the emblem of generative life, proceeding from the mouth of the great god of Egypt. The mystic egg of Babylon, hatching the Venus Ishtar, fell from heaven to the Euphrates. Dyed eggs were sacred Easter offerings in Egypt, as they are still in China and Europe. Easter, or spring, was the season of birth, terrestrial and celestial.”
What could be more plain in showing the true origin of the “Easter egg”? An “Easter” egg is just an egg that pertains to Easter. It naturally progressed that the egg, representing spring and fertility, would be merged into an already pagan springtime festival.
The Origin of Lent
According to Johannes Cassianus, who wrote in the fifth century, “Howbeit you should know, that as long as the primitive church retained its perfection unbroken, this observance of Lent did not exist” (First Conference Abbot Theonas, Chapter 30). There is neither biblical nor historical record of Christ, the apostles or the early Church participating in the Lenten season.
Since there is no instruction to observe Lent in the Bible, where did it come from?
A 40-day abstinence period was anciently observed in honor of the pagan gods Osiris, Adonis and Tammuz (John Landseer,Sabaean Researches, pp. 111, 112). Alexander Hislops, The Two Babylons, pp. 104-105, says this of the origin of Lent:
“The 40 days abstinence of Lent was directly borrowed from the worshippers of the Babylonian goddess. Such a Lent of 40 days, in the spring of the year, is still observed by the Yezidis or Pagan Devil-worshippers of Koordistan, who have inherited it from their early masters, the Babylonians. Such a Lent of 40 days was held in spring by the Pagan Mexicans. Such a Lent of 40 days was observed in Egypt.”
Lent came from paganism, not from the Bible.
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