What do you think of when someone mentions Easter — brightly colored eggs, bunny rabbits, hot cross buns, Easter parades and sunrise services? Have you ever wondered whether these traditional customs of Easter have any logical connection with the resurrection of Jesus Christ?
Not in the Bible!
Very few have ever thought about why they believe what they do — why they follow the customs they do, or where those customs came from. Having been born into this world with its religious customs, perhaps you take for granted the customs and beliefs of society without question. Just how and when did Easter originate? Does it really celebrate the resurrection of Christ? Was Christ even resurrected on a Sunday morning? Did the original apostles, whom Jesus taught personally, celebrate Easter? Let's begin this eye-opening study and discover the surprising answers!
Did Apostles Celebrate Easter?
It is commonly believed that the Good Friday/Easter Sunday tradition began with the apostles of the New Testament Church. 1. What is found in the Bible regarding the observance of "Easter"? Acts 12:4, Authorized Version. COMMENT: This is the only verse in the Authorized or King James Version of the Bible where the word Easter is mentioned. However, as any authority of the Greek language knows, it is a flagrant mistranslation! The original Greek word here is pascha, meaning Passover. In every other place in the New Testament where pasch a is used, it is always translated Passover. Examples of this can be found in Matthew 26:2, 17-19; Mark 14:12; and I Corinthians 5:7. Virtually all other translations of the Bible correctly render pasch a as Passover in Acts 12:4. The Revised Authorized Version, for example, has "... intending to bring him before the people after Passover." Consequently, there is absolutely no biblical record of Christ's apostles and later true Christians ever observing Easter. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, "There is no indication of the observance of the Easter festival in the New Testament, or in the writings of the apostolic Fathers.... The first Christians continued to observe the Jewish festivals [that is, God's — Leviticus 23:1-2], though in a new spirit, as commemorations of events which those festivals had foreshadowed" ("Easter," 11th edition). Also notice what the historian Socrates Scholasticus wrote in his Ecclesiastical History, not long after the Roman Emperor Constantine, in the fourth century: "Neither the apostles, therefore, nor the Gospels, have anywhere imposed... Easter.... Wherefore, inasmuch as men love festivals, because they afford them cessation from labor: each individual in every place, according to his own pleasure, has by prevalent custom celebrated [Easter].... "The Saviour and his apostles have enjoined us by no law to keep this feast... just as many other customs have been established in individual localities according to usage, so also the feast of Easter came to be observed in each place according to the individual peculiarities of the peoples inasmuch as none of the apostles legislated on the matter. And that the observance originated not by legislation, but as a custom the facts themselves indicate" (chapter 22).. 2. Did Christ instruct his apostles to observe his resurrection or just the opposite — to commemorate the date of his death? Luke 22:8, 13-20. Also notice I Corinthians 11:23-26. COMMENT: The evening before his crucifixion, Jesus established the New Testament Passover for Christians. He introduced the new symbols of unleavened bread and wine in place of the slaying of a lamb. Then he commanded his true followers down through the ages, "This do... in remembrance of me" (I Cor. 11:25).
Resurrection on Sunday?
Another reason why "Easter Sunday" could not have been celebrated by the early Christian Church may be found in the fact that Christ was not resurrected on a Sunday morning. 1. What did Jesus say about the length of time he would be in the grave? Matt. 12:39-40; Mark 8:31. Did he fulfill that sign "as he said"? Matt. 28:6. COMMENT: The only sign Christ gave to prove he was the Messiah was the length of time he would be dead and buried — a period of three days and three nights, or 72 hours. But according to the Easter tradition, Christ was crucified Friday afternoon and resurrected Sunday morning — a period of only a day and a half, or 36 hours! Since Christ did fulfill his sign (Matt. 28:6), the Good Friday/Easter Sunday tradition is just that — a tradition and not a fact! If you are not afraid of the facts that prove Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday, and rose from the dead 72 hours later — late Saturday afternoon — read our free booklet The Resurrection Was Not On Sunday!
But what about the various customs and traditions associated with Easter? Most assume that the customs of this most — important religious holiday of the Western world came from "Christian" origins. Shocking as it may sound, Easter and its customs date long before the birth of Jesus. Easter was observed nearly 2,000 years before the beginning of the Christian era! "Easter" is actually a slightly changed English spelling of the name of the ancient Assyrian goddess Ishtar. It was pronounced by the Assyrians as we pronounce Easter today. The New Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia (article "Easter") explains that Easter "embodies traditions of an ancient time antedating the rise of Christianity.... [It] was celebrated on the day of the vernal equinox [about March 21, the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere], and traditions associated with the festival survive in the familiar Easter bunny, symbol of the fertile rabbit, and in the equally familiar colored Easter eggs originally painted with gay hues to represent the sunlight of spring.... Such festivals [as Easter], and the myths and legends which explain their origin, abound in ancient religions." The traditions associated with Easter, such as colored eggs, hot cross buns, the Easter bunny and attending sunrise services are pre-Christian and pagan in origin! 1. A traditional custom of Easter today is to attend an Easter sunrise service. Does the prophet Ezekiel make reference to such a practice occurring during his time — more than 500 years before the birth of Jesus? Ezek. 8:16. Does God approve of this custom? Verses 15, 17. COMMENT: It was an ancient heathen custom to gather at sunrise and worship the rising sun. Such services were being observed in Ezekiel's day by the nation of Judah. They had "borrowed" some of the heathen customs, in spite of God's strict command not to follow pagan practices in worshiping him!
Does Easter Honor Christ?
Many who understand that Easter evolved from pagan customs originally honoring a pagan goddess will say that they observe it to "honor" Christ. 1. What does God warn about learning and following the customs and traditions of the heathen? Deut. 12:29-31; Jer. 10:2. COMMENT: God plainly commands his people not to adopt the practices of pagan nations. God will not accept this kind of worship, even though intended in his honor! 2. Did Christ say it is possible to worship him and still do it in vain? Matt. 15:9. What did he tell his disciples about following man's ideas on how to worship God? Mark 7:7-9. COMMENT: God does not want people trying to honor Christ by following traditions and customs devised by men. Notice again God's command, "You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way" (Deut. 12:31, Revised Authorized Version). If you would like to know more about the true origins of Easter and related customs than could be presented in this short study, be sure to read The Plain Truth About Easter. This booklet is also free. And don't forget to enroll in the free Bible Correspondence Course!