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?
Most people just believe just what they are taught without checking on the vague meaning of a senseless festival. Since hundreds of millions are following it, that doesn’t mean that its right way to follow, then I am sure the Bible must have something to say about Easter. Surely there are numerous verses mentioning rabbits, eggs and egg hunts, baskets of candy, hot cross buns, Lent, Good Friday and sunrise services—not to mention Easter itself.
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: “And when he [Herod] had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions [sixteen] of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.”
Is this Bible authority for Easter?
This passage is not talking about Easter. How do we know? 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! Now let’s go to the other scriptures authorizing Easter. This presents a problem. There are none! There are absolutely no verses, anywhere in the Bible, that authorize or endorse the keeping of Easter celebration! The Bible says nothing about Lent, eggs and egg hunts, baskets of candy, etc., although it does mention hot cross buns and sunrise services as abominations, which God condemns. We will examine them and learn why. 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. We will examine the Passover more closely later.
The well-known Old Testament Passover story centers on God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt through ten miraculous plagues. These included how the death angel would “pass over” all the houses where the Israelites lived. They were instructed to put blood over their doorposts to ensure that only the firstborn of Egypt would die. In this first Passover, it was only the blood of the slain lamb that protected each Israelite home. While Egypt suffered the plague of death, the Israelite firstborn were delivered by blood. By obeying God’s command and by faith in His promise to protect them, they were spared from death.
The Passover account is found in Exodus 12:12-14. Verse 14 states that the Passover ceremony was commanded by God to be an annual memorial feast to be kept by Israel “forever.” (This command is repeated in Leviticus 23:5.) Exodus 12:15 introduces the seven-day festival called the Days of Unleavened Bread (also repeated in Leviticus 23:6-8), which was to immediately follow the Passover feast each year. This is why Acts 12:3 states, “Then were the days of unleavened bread,” before mentioning the Passover in the next verse. These days were always kept in conjunction with one another.
If the Passover was instituted forever, then New Testament instruction for its observance should be clear. This instruction is found in I Corinthians 5:7-8: “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast (of unleavened bread, which always followed Passover, as explained above)…”
Christ, as the Lamb of God (John 1:29; Acts 8:32; I Peter 1:19; Rev. 5:6), replaced the Old Testament lamb eaten on Passover evening each year. The New Testament symbols of the bread and wine were instituted so that Christians could eat the body and drink the blood of Christ, the true Lamb of God. Jesus’ sacrifice replaced the need to kill a spring lamb. Luke 22:19 shows that Jesus substituted the bread and wine to be taken annually in commemoration of His sacrifice for the remission of our sins—both spiritual and physical.
Early Christians kept the Passover, not Easter. Notice this from the Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edit., Vol. 8, p. 828: “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 [God’s festivals of Leviticus 23], though in a new spirit, as commemorations of events which those festivals had foreshadowed. Thus the Passover, with a new conception added to it, of Christ as the true Paschal Lamb…continued to be observed.”
The original apostles and early New Testament Church did not observe Easter. Notice: “In the second century A.D., Easter Day was, among Christians in Asia Minor [these would be the Gentile churches that Paul raised up in places such as Philippi, Colossae, Galatia, etc.—and he warned the Galatians (4:9-10) about taking days such as Easter] the 14th of Nisan [or Abib] the seventh month of the [civil] Jewish calendar” (World Almanac, 1968 edit., p. 187). The date described here is not Easter Day, but rather the Passover—which was kept on the 14th day of the first month (Nisan) of the sacred calendar. The apostles and early Church did not observe Easter!
Despite the overwhelming proof that God’s Holy Days, as listed in Leviticus 23, are still to be kept by Christians today (Acts 2:1; 12:3; 18:21; 20:6, 16; I Cor. 5:7-8; 16:8), almost no one who claims to believe in the God of the Bible keeps them! Almost no one who professes to worship Jesus Christ observes the Passover as He commanded! Why?
Since instruction to observe Easter is not in the Bible, and God’s permanent command to keep Passover is, then where did Easter originate? After surveying the origin of Passover, we are ready to study the origin of Easter.
Where Did Easter Come From?
Does the following sound familiar?—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.
Easter, right? No! 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 immoral, 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.
If Easter is not found in the Bible, then where did it come from? 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.
Now notice the following powerful 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).
“Easter—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: “dawn”], and in Germany, Ostara [this comes from the German word Ost: “east,” which is 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)?
We must now look closer at the origin of other customs associated with the modern Easter celebration.
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 forty-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 forty days abstinence of Lent was directly borrowed from the worshippers of the Babylonian goddess. Such a Lent of forty 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 forty days was held in spring by the Pagan Mexicans…Such a Lent of forty days was observed in Egypt…”
Lent came from paganism, not from the Bible!