Thursday, April 4, 2013

Easter FAQ

[Last updated: 02/17/2024]

I am shocked at the statements being passed off as truth on the Internet these days. Here is a very short list of the some of the unsubstantiated claims that are out there:

• Sun-worshippers went to their temples weekly on Sunday to worship the Sun-god.
• Nimrod’s wife was Semiramis, who claimed to be the Virgin Queen of Heaven, and was the mother of Tammuz.
• Tammuz was killed by a wild boar when he was age 40; so 40 days of Lent were set aside to honor his death.
• The Babylonians wept for Tammuz on “Good Friday.” They worshipped a cross-the initial letter of his name.

These and similar claims, popular as they may be on the Internet, are patently ridiculous. They are unfounded and unverifiable. People who pass on these things all claim to love the truth. I shudder for the truth! Just try to find proof for these claims in ancient documents and you cannot. Drill down and you will come to a dead end. Why? Because they’re made up! Wouldn’t you expect to be able to provide solid evidence for something if it’s is true? Yet well-intentioned people propagate these tales regardless.

Mistake #1 is not discerning the quality of your source of information. Be warned, dear reader: all sources are not the same. DO NOT mistake Alexander Hislop for a reliable authority on anything. Nothing can be false if it's on the Internet, right? 
Mistake #2 is mistaking Googling for research. A Google search is not "research" if that is where you stop. It's just the beginning! After the Google search comes the real research. Check the source material, track down the details, compare and contrast with the real historical documents, go to the highest quality sources. 
Mistake #3 is believing everything you see in an info-graphic. Just because someone uses Photoshop to make a picture that looks great and puts it on Facebook doesn’t mean they’re telling the truth.

Such absurd errors are found in publications and websites (in some cases intentionally) and make their way to church radio programs and even into generally respectable resources like the Encyclopedia. Well, a large part of the reason why As Bereans Did exists is to cut through the nonsense, find the facts that can be found, and warn about the errors! We dig down, as the noble Bereans did, and we bring you the hard facts.

To that end, we have devised this quick reference FAQ for you. I must make my answers short, rather than comprehensive. Resources will be left at the end of the post for you to use in further study.


Is Easter a pagan holiday coopted by the Catholic Church?

No. Easter is not a prior pagan holiday adopted into Christianity. Easter is the New Covenant Pascha. By whatever name or date, this one feast has been observed by the entire unified Church from the start.
So, in what way was any holiday supposedly coopted?
--The name? The only name used before and after Nicaea is “Pascha”, which comes from the Hebrew word Pesach. When the early church discusses this day, they use the term Pascha. If Passover were replaced with a pagan Easter, most of Europe wouldn't call it Pascha. Most languages refer to it as Pascha, or something similar, to this very day.  For example, in Italy it's Pasqua (I will provide a longer list later on). If it were coopted, we would find a record of the word Easter before and especially after Nicaea. It isn't there. Only German and English (which is a Germanic language) use another name altogether. In English the name is Easter, in German the name is Ostern. This name change didn't happen until after Christianity was introduced to Germany. The name was changed because it was the habit of those Germanic people to name their holidays after the months in which they fell.
--The timing? The timing has nothing to do with a prior pagan holiday. It has everything to do with keeping the memorial as close as reasonably possibly to the time of year when Jesus actually experienced the events being memorialized. The Christians told us why they debated the timing. The oldest material claims the Sunday tradition came from the Apostles.
--The traditions? You mean rabbits and eggs. Colored eggs were introduced centuries later because eggs could not be eaten during Lent, and rabbits were introduced by German Protestants centuries later still, as a prank. If it were coopted, those traditions would have been there from the start, and we would be able to find those traditions in a holiday Easter supposedly coopted.
--The imagery? Easter is the annual remembrance of the end of the Lentin fast, the Lord's Supper, Jesus' death, and, primarily, His resurrection. You find those in an ancient pagan holiday that predates Christianity and I will personally make a post about that, then delete everything I've ever written here.
So, again, in what way was any holiday supposedly coopted? There is no proof against Easter given, just baseless accusations.

Did Easter start in Nimrod’s day?

No. That is an outright lie built on terrible etymology and pseudo-history, and passed off as fact due to repetition. There is nothing remotely in the realm of reliable historical evidence to demonstrate this. All of these sorts of Nimrod, Ishtar, Tammuz, etc claims find their beginning with Alexander Hislop. He is the one who made it all up in the late 1840’s. Maybe you didn’t know that Hislop is completely unreliable. I can hardly blame you for not knowing this. Among the people who promote his writings are Herbert Armstrong and thus the leaders of every one of the COG splinter churches, Dave Hunt, Chuck Missler, Richard Rives, the Christadelphians, the Jehovah’s Witnesses – the list goes on and on. But if you really want the truth about Hislop, then please send away for Mr. Ralph Woodrow’s book “The Babylon Connection”. It will give you the information that you need to know about Alexander Hislop.
See our posts “The Babylon Connection” and “The Two Babylons” for more.

Think about it… 
Some people, following Alexander Hislop, say Easter is an ancient Babylonian holiday that was kept continuously by the Catholic Church since Nimrod’s day. But if it was always being kept then it cannot be the result of the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. It cannot be both.
If it was the product of the Council of Nicaea then it cannot be the result of the Catholic Church which only sent two representatives to the Council. It cannot be both.
The first mention of Eostre is in the eighth century, not the first century, nor the fourth century, and certainly not 2,000+ BC. They can’t all be right.
The early church called it (most places still call it) Pascha, and only several centuries later came the name Easter. If Pascha is centuries older than Easter, then Easter cannot be the source of Pascha. It cannot be both.
What kind of coincidence could possibly cause the holiday to be called Easter by the Babylonians, then Pascha by the Greeks and Latins, then Ostern by the Germans, then Easter once again by the English?
These contradictions cannot all be true.

What was the Quartodeciman Controversy?

A dispute arose in the early church, early in the second century, which has since become known as the Quartodeciman Controversy (aka the Easter Controversy). The controversy was over 1) the length of the fast before the Lord's Supper, 2) the nature of the fast, and 3) when to stop fasting and observe the Lord's Supper. Everyone at the time agreed our Lord ate the Last Supper and was crucified on the 14th of Nissan according to the Hebrew calendar used at the Temple in Jerusalem. That wasn't in dispute. One group, from areas with high populations of Jewish converts, was taught to always observe the Lord's Supper on the 14th of Nissan regardless of when it occurred. They received the nickname Quartodeciman, after the Latin term quarta decima meaning fourteen. Another group, from areas almost entirely of Gentile converts, was taught to always observe the Lord's Supper on the Sunday on or after the 14th of Nissan. Both groups claim they were taught by the Apostles to observe as they did. The Quartodeciman group was taught by John and Philip, and the rest by Paul and Peter (and perhaps others). This is the nature of the controversy.
The term Quartodeciman doesn't appear until closer to the fourth century, and doesn't seem to be used by the Quartodeciman side to describe themselves.
The dispute was mostly settled at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. It took some time afterward for Quartodecimanism to die out on its own.

See our article "Primer to the Quartodeciman Controversy" for more.

Were the Quartodecimans preserving the timing of the Lord's Supper?

Yes and no. Both groups tied their observance to the 14th of Nissan, so they both tried to preserve the timing. The difference was, one group observed on the 14th itself while the other group observed on the Sunday on or after the 14th. Both sides had a problem with preserving the true timing due to the Hebrew calendar itself.
After the Jews were banished from Jerusalem, their main calendar system, the one used at the Temple, became unreliable. You only had two events to base the calendar on - the ripening of the barley harvest in Judaea, and the new moon after the equinox. Neither were available. Very few of the Diaspora Jews were familiar with the secrets of how the calendar was calculated. As time went on, the calendar got worse. It became an issue for everyone involved when the 14th of Nissan fell before the Spring equinox. No one was entirely happy with it. Once the calendar was no longer reliably tied to its critical events, it became unable to accurately mark when the Lord's Supper really occurred. Additionally, the Christians were uncomfortable relying on the Jews to tell them when to remember Jesus.
According to historian Gerard Rouwhorst, who quotes historian Wolfgang Huber:
"In Asia the Quartodecimen practice was replaced in the first part of the third century by the celebration which culminated in the vigil in the night between Sarurday and Sunday. In the Syriac-speaking churches it continued to exist a century longer until the Council of Nicaea..."
-Gerard Rouwhorst, "The Quartodecimen Passover", p. 157
So, the idea that the Quartodecimen camp was stalwartly preserving an original truth was not entirely accurate. They were moving away from older traditions on their own.
At Nicea, all agreed to abandon reliance on the Jewish calendar and create their own calculations based on how Passover was originally determined. The formula agreed to at Nicaea sets the date on a Sunday, the day our Lord was known to be risen from the tomb, yet keeps it close to the actual time when Jesus ate the Last Supper. In other words, they maintained a tie to Nissan 14, only better (and so it is today).
Not 30 years after Nicaea, the Jews decided they couldn’t follow the calendar either, so Rabbi Hillel II completely revamped their calendar system.

We say 'yes and no' to this question because, yes, the Quartodecimans were preserving the timing of the Lord's Supper on the 14th of Nissan. Both groups were. While at the exact same time, no, they were not preserving the true time of the Lord's Supper due to their reliance on the inaccurate Hebrew calendar. The date might have been the same, but the timing in relation to the equinox could have been weeks off.

Were the Quartodecimani keeping the Old Covenant Passover?

No. There was a decidedly counter-Jewish flavor in Quartodeciman practice described in ancient documents. The Quartodeciman tradition was not a continuation of the Old Covenant Passover, per se. It was a keeping of the Lord's Supper. They saw Passover as Jewish. Therefore, a clear distinction needs to be made between the Old Covenant Passover and the New Covenant Pascha. The Passover is a very specific event with very specific rituals and imagery for a very specific people during a very specific time. Jesus ate the Passover because those things applied to Him as a Jew in the Old Covenant period. But, even as He did so, He instituted a new event with new rituals and new imagery for a New Covenant for all people for all time. Our Lord ate one evening earlier than everyone else, naturally, as He couldn't eat it if He were dead. Some have argued Jesus was correcting a popular error in timing, but that is mere conjecture, and causes a new set of issues to deal with. (For more, see our article "Easter History Part I"). Jesus did not say to continue the Passover remembrance of the law. He said, "do this in memory of Me," (I COR. 11: 24). And so, what all Christians at the time were doing on both sides of the debate was observing the New Covenant Lord's Supper, not the Old Covenant Passover. Some terminology may have remained, but the meanings changed completely.
We have one caveat. The New Testament seems to leave room for Christians who were converts from Judaism to keep their traditions (ACT. 21: 20). This is their right and their heritage. Those things were given to Israel alone. The Jews were not required to become Gentiles in order to be Christians any more than the Gentiles were required to become Jews in order to be Christians. So, perhaps some converts from Judaism kept both, although nothing specifically says so.

This question comes to us from people who claim New Covenant Christians are obliged to observe Old Covenant weekly Sabbath, annual holy days, and other rituals associated with the ancient imagery. This group starts from the assumption that the Old Covenant Passover must be and therefore was being kept. We here disagree, as we find no support in the best evidence available. In fact, we find quite the opposite. We cannot possibly cover this topic here, so we instead point you to other articles.

For more information on the Quartodeciman relationship with the Old Covenant law, see our article "Quartodecimans - Were They Law-Keepers?". For more information on whether or not Christians are required to keep the Old Covenant Passover, see our articles "Must Christians Observe The Old Covenant Passover?" and "Confusing the Covenants".

Were the Quartodecimans in the majority and Rome the minority?

No. The Quartodeciman side were in the clear minority. It wasn't nearly as simple as East vs West. It wasn't an even split. It was more like Asia Minor (ie. modern Turkey), Syria, and Persia vs. everyone else. 
Our main sources of this information are from Eusebius' books "The Life of Constantine" and "Church History", and from Socrates of Constantinople's book "Church History". We can also infer locations from Quartodeciman authors from specific places, such as Aphraphat the Persian's Demonstration XII "On Passover".

The Jews being dispersed after the Bar Kochba revolt might help to explain why Palestine was not Quartodeciman. We also know "Judaiszers" who troubled Paul throughout Asia might help explain why Asia was Quartodeciman. <<That is just my own personal speculation. Take it for what it is.
You can see for yourself it was quite lopsided.
See our article "Primer to the Quartodeciman Controversy" for more.

Is the Quartodecimen tradition older than the Sunday tradition?

Yes and no. We aren't convinced it matters either way. Jesus did eat the Lord's Supper at the start of the 14th of Nissan. Eusebius, in "Church History" chapter 23 says, "For the parishes of all Asia, as from an older tradition, held that the fourteenth day of the moon, on which day the Jews were commanded to sacrifice the lamb..." (That is not to say those in Asia were keeping the law, because there is no Old Covenant law to eat the Lord's Supper or to fast before it. This means Eusebius intends to say Passover is older.) You can't get older than the night Jesus was betrayed. Oddly, we find it necessary to ask what is the definition of "older"?
Polycarp, a Quartodeciman, said to Anicetus the Bishop of Rome that he received his tradition from the Apostle John. However, only a few sentences later, Eusebius (who lived in what ought to have been a Quartodeciman area) says the tradition of Pascha on Sunday came from the Apostles. We can infer the vast majority of Gentiles were never taught to observe an exact recurrence of the Lord's Supper on the 14th of Nissan (some scholars say the earliest Gentiles were not taught Pascha at all). Therefore, it is not older for them.
Our opinion is it doesn't matter. We are not convinced one or the other being slightly older makes any difference at all, since both traditions are from the first century and both claim to come from the Apostles. Being older confers no pedigree if both were Apostolic, or if one side was taught something different than the other. Therefore, we say yes, it was older in that it was on the original date, but at the same time, no, it was not older, because most of the church was never taught that tradition.

Is Easter tied to the Spring Equinox because of paganism?

No. It has nothing to do with paganism at all. It has to do with Judaism. The timing for Easter was chosen because Passover was supposed to be on the full moon on or after the equinox, at the ripening of the barley harvest in Israel. The ancient Hebrews used a lunar calendar, and so did the priests at the Temple in Jerusalem. The moon was the main driver for all of their timing. At first, the barley harvest was the key indicator for the Israelites. Later, when the nation was fully established, observations of moon phases became the norm. The Spring equinox was important to the timing of Passover, and therefore the Last Supper, and therefore Easter.

Is the Pope responsible for the change from Passover to Easter?

No. First, Jesus is responsible for the change from the Old Covenant Passover to the New Covenant Pascha. Second, Easter is the continuation of the Lord's Supper. Third, if  the claim is the Pope strong armed the Council of Nicaea, you should know the Pope wasn’t even at the Council of Nicaea. Eusebius states the Bishop of Rome didn't attend due to his extreme old age, so he sent two representatives to be there in his place (Eusebius, "Life of Constantine", book III, chapter 7). Two out of some 318 Bishops (the exact number is unknown and various numbers were given). Nothing at Nicaea was forced on the Church by the “evil” Catholics. They all had a vote and decided among themselves. As we pointed out elsewhere, the reason the Council sided with Rome was because most of the people there were never on the Quartodeciman side to begin with.
If the claim is not that the Pope strong armed the Council of Nicaea, rather that Popes prior to Nicaea started this tradition, then we are surprised people would admit the Papacy is so old had that much authority. Eusebius and others give many historical proofs that the tradition of Easter on Sunday comes from all areas of the Roman Empire except Asia and Syria from the very start, not just Rome (we discuss this elsewhere). They can't all come form the Pope. Therefore, this claim is either upholding the Roman Catholic Church, or it is baseless.

Is Constantine responsible for the change from Passover to Easter?

No. There is no evidence to support this. First, Jesus is responsible for the change from the Old Covenant Passover to the New Covenant Pascha. Second, Pascha (Easter) is the continuation of the Lord's Supper. Third, nothing at Nicaea was forced on the Church by the “evil” Constantine.  Constantine was at the Council of Nicaea, but Eusebius records the Emperor as being active in asking questions but taking a hands-off approach.
The Council of Nicaea was not the first council on the topic. Local councils were held more than once in the 200s. Nicaea was the first ecumenical council, where all the church came together at once. Before Nicaea, Constantine sent out letters to church leaders in several areas imploring them to settle the issue (which was doomed to fail, since they had been trying to settle the issue for two centuries already). When that failed, he called the Council to make leaders from all areas sit down together and work it out. He wanted the Christians to solve their own issues for the good of the peace in the empire. He let them debate and decide on their own. He was not afforded a vote. When the bishops had finally decided, he enforced their decisions.

One clue to the fact that Constantine did not force some pagan day on the church is the fact that churches in most of the empire had been keeping Easter on Sunday well before the Constantine was born. The Council of Nicaea wasn't remotely the first synod held to discuss the issue. Eusebius tells us most of the empire was already unanimous in support of what eventually became the decision at Nicaea. The Council found in favor of that pre-existing practice. Eusebius recounts a discussion between Polycarp the Bishop of Smyrna and Anicetus the Bishop of Rome, which had to be between 153-155 AD (Eusebius "Church History" book IV, chapter 14). If they debated it and claimed Apostolic tradition, then you can know it started well before them. That is extremely early and far before Constantine's birth. We cannot blame Constantine at Nicaea for something most of the church was already doing from the beginning. Another clue is, some people still refused to abide by the decision of the Council, so another Council had to be called in 381 AD to deal with that. Constantine did enforce the decision at Nicaea, but if it were so simple as 'Constantine forced his will on us', we wouldn't see dissent and another Council to deal with it.

Weren't there two holidays being debated in Nicaea - God's true Passover versus a pagan Easter?

No. Eusebius (who was there), clearly and without equivocation, shows us that the celebration people argued over is none other than the Last Supper. Eusebius says there was a:
“...diversity of judgment in regard to the time for celebrating one and the same feast...”
-Eusebius, "Life of Constantine", book III, chapter 5, in section “Of the Disagreement Respecting the Celebration of Easter”. [Bold mine.]
The claim there was a debate over two separate festivals is untrue and not in any way supported by any legitimate evidence whatsoever. As you can see, it goes against what legitimate evidence we do have. There was one and only one feast being discussed, that being Pascha. The debate was over particulars of the one feast. Furthermore, none of those involved were advocating for "God's true" Old Covenant Passover of the Jews. They were all discussing the New Covenant Pascha of the Christians. They discussed how long the Paschal fast should last, and when to end the Paschal fast and observe the Lord's Supper.
After Nicaea, Constantine wrote a letter informing Christians of the decisions of Nicaea. Speaking of the Jews, he mentions they sometimes keep Easter twice in the same year (Eusebius "The Life of Constantine", Book III, chapter 18). He uses the exact same word for the Jewish Passover as he does the Christian feast: Pascha. There was no difference in the word used, and yet no confusion in his meaning. If he had just finished having Passover swapped for Easter, there would be two words used, not one. We deal elsewhere with the fact the word 'Easter' wouldn't be invented for several centuries later.

For more information on whether or not Christians are required to keep the Old Covenant Passover, see our article "Must Christians Observe The Old Covenant Passover?".

Were there two churches battling for control, one true but small and the other pagan but large?

No. Have fun proving that one! Who is this small church? The Quartodeciman group? It couldn't be. Polycarp, a Quartodeciman, ate the eucharist with Anicetus, Bishop of Rome. The Quartodecimani were represented at the Council of Nicaea. All people on both sides agreed they were members of one unified church celebrating one and the same feast at two times. So who then? Some minuscule group who went underground and only came up for air every once in a great while? We reject that completely. 

This conspiracy theory comes to us from Herman Hoeh, the official historian of the Worldwide Church of God. He clearly stole his material from A. N. Dugger and C. O. Dodd of the Church of God (Seventh Day). We have never bothered to investigate where Dugger and Dodd got the idea. Others do this, too, but these are the ones through whom this question comes to us. What do they present to us as their "true history of the true church"? Why, nothing but cherry-picked selections from history which, upon inspection, turn out to be either Catholic (e.g., Petrobrussians) or Protestant (e.g., Waldensians), with a section about themselves being the culmination of the "true church" in their day (of course). Most of the time, the Gospel is not even factored in to what makes a group "the true church". How can that be? The list of items that indicate a "true church" changes each time they pick a new group. Sometimes it's baptism by immersion, sometimes it's seventh-day Sabbath. But worry not! The authors have all of the things that are needed to make themselves the most true "true church" of all.
We have more articles on False History than we can count, but we recommend the following articles for more: "True History of the True Church??", "Another True History?", "A Pattern of Dishonest Documentation", "COG Worldwide Association Claims False Roots (long version)".

Wasn’t Sunday worship itself adopted from paganism?

No. This claim is a recent fabrication. There are some outstanding resources available to disprove this claim that pagans had set worship on Sundays. Among these resources is D. M. Canright’s “The Lord’s Day Neither from Catholics or Pagans”. In chapter 5 of his book, Mr. Canright corresponds with the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities of the British Museum in London, England – the world authority at that time. The British Museum unequivocally confirmed that pagans in ancient Rome did not have any such concept as weekly Sunday observance. 
The Romans didn't even have a seven-day week originally. Roman days were numbered or lettered, not named, and they went in an eight-day cycle, not seven. Take a look at this recreation of the Fasti Antiates Maiores - the oldest known Roman calendar, created sometime between 84 and 44 BC - and see for yourself:

Calendars have been found that are not nearly as old as the Fasti which do show seven week days. Here is an image of a reproduction of a Roman peg calendar:

Across the top are pictures of seven gods. Actually, they were representations of seven astral objects. It is important to know these were not religious representations but astronomical. From left to right, they are: Saturn, the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter and Venus. The
 seven names are in the order we would expect for weekdays, so it is natural to conclude that is exactly what they are. This demonstrates that Rome had more than one way to view days. Seven weekdays as we know them now was only one of those ways.
Roman worship was not tied to weekdays like Christianity and Judaism are. The claim that Sunday church comes from regular pagan sun worship is anachronistic, misunderstands how Rome worked, and is not at all supported by any reliable evidence whatsoever.

For more, see our articles "Rome's Challenge" and "Constantine vs The Sabbath".


Should we call Easter by the name Passover?

It doesn’t accomplish much. But understand that in most places that is precisely what they do. Most places do not call the day Easter, they call it a version of Pascha. Since Passover is generally considered to be the name of the Jewish Old Covenant observance, it might be best to avoid confusion and not use this particular name. 
The term "Resurrection Sunday" has been trending recently. This is a decent term, so far as it goes. Or, just call it Easter.

But if the sacred name of Passover is holding you up, you should know the word “Passover” is every bit as much a construct of the English language as Easter is. ( reviews the meaning of Pesach.) Lord's Supper is English, too. Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles - all English. Pentecost, that’s a Helenistic Greek name. Nissan, that’s a Babylonian name. Abib, that’s a Canaanite name. Passover may be how it appears in the Bible, but unless you read the Bible in its original languages, most of what you think, hear, and say is translated in some way. Even if you do read the Bible in Hebrew, you don't read it in the original Hebrew. Why take a stand on Easter, then? It seems quite inconsistent. If someone is telling you to avoid a thing because its name is changed to another language, we recommend you reject that advice. These translated words are not wrong. They are correct ...for a given language. The Apostles themselves used the Septuagint, which was a translated version from Hebrew into Greek. We know the Apostles used the Septuagint because of how their quotes are constructed. If they can do it, you can do it, too. Translating is not a sin, nor does it make a thing incorrect.
At any rate, the name and details of celebration do not matter so long as the spirit remains the same: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Obsessing over names is at best a distraction, and at worst self-righteous.

What is Easter called in non-English speaking areas?

Here is a fairly comprehensive list:
"The Greeks called Easter the pascha anastasimon; Good Friday the pascha staurosimon. The respective terms used by the Latins are Pascha resurrectionis and Pascha crucifixionis. In the Roman and Monastic Breviaries the feast bears the title Dominica Resurrectionis; in the Mozarabic Breviary, In Lætatione Diei Pasch Resurrectionis; in the Ambrosian Breviary, In Die Sancto Paschæ. The Romance languages have adopted the Hebrew-Greek term: Latin, Pascha; Italian, Pasqua; Spanish, Pascua; French, Pâques. Also some Celtic and Teutonic nations use it: Scottish, Pask; Dutch, Paschen; The correct word in Dutch is actually Pasen; Danish, Paaske; Swedish, Pask; even in the German provinces of the Lower Rhine the people call the feast Paisken not Ostern. The word is, principally in Spain and Italy, identified with the word "solemnity" and extended to other feasts, e.g. Sp., Pascua florida, Palm Sunday; Pascua de Pentecostes, Pentecost; Pascua de la Natividad, Christmas; Pascua de Epifania, Epiphany." 
-Holweck, Frederick. "Easter". The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 19 Apr. 2010

Why was the name Pascha changed to Easter?

Because of the Germans. There are two Germanic groups you need to know to understand this: the various peoples of Germany and the various Germanic peoples who migrated to southern England. It was the way of these people to name their holidays after the months in which they fell. When they converted to Christianity and adopted Pascha, they renamed Pascha after the month in which it fell. In Germany, the month was Ostarmanoth. So, there Pascha became Ostar. In England, the month was Eosturmonath. So, there Pascha became Easter.
They did the same thing with Lent. Lent isn't a Latin word, it's a Germanic word meaning Spring. With Lent, the Germans changed the name of the tradition and the month. When Charlemagne reordered the German calendar, he changed the name of one month to Lenzmanoth.
It should be clearly stated that it was German Christians who renamed their feast after the month in which it fell. It had nothing to do with pagans. There is nothing anywhere that demands a holiday have a specific name. The name is not holy, nor magical. It has no power. The Germans were well within their rights to change the name as they saw fit. It does nothing to the day.

Is Easter named after a goddess?

No. Easter is named after a month. Easter gets its name from the old Saxon month Eosturmonath, in which the Easter Season beganEosturmonath is Saxon, or Old Low German, and it comes from the old High German month Ostarmanoth. The question is not if Easter took its name from a goddess, but did the month take its name from a goddess.
The month may or may not have gotten its name from a goddess originally, but most likely didn’t. 
The Venerable Bede, in his book "The Reckoning of Time", says the month originally got its name from a defunct German goddess named Eostra. But all of her rituals had been completely replaced by the Christian rituals of Paschal Month.
"Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated 'Paschal month’, and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honor feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honored name of the old observance."
-Venerable Bede, "The Reckoning of Time", chapter 15.
Others theorize the month got its name because ostar means east or eastward, and by extension implies dawn and Spring. Old Germans didn't name their months after deities. Rather, months were named after natural events and regular work (e.g., Winter Month, Hay Month, Wood Month, Pasture Month). This interpretation only makes sense, as the root word that led to the name of the month is the same used for the nation of Austria. No one claims Austria comes from Ostara. Do an etymology search for Austria and you will see for yourself:
"Austria: central European nation, from Medieval Latin Marchia austriaca "eastern borderland." German Österreich is "eastern kingdom," from Old High German ostar "eastern" (from Proto-Germanic *aust- "east," literally "toward the sunrise," from PIE root *aus- (1) "to shine," especially of the dawn) + reich "kingdom, realm, state" (from Proto-Germanic *rikja "rule," from PIE root *reg- "move in a straight line," with derivatives meaning "to direct in a straight line," thus "to lead, rule"). So called for being on the eastern edge of Charlemagne's empire. Related: Austrian."
-Austria, Etymology Online,, accessed 12/31/2023. [Bold mine.]
Ronald Hutton, in his book "Stations of the Sun", suggests Ostarmanoth could also mean “month of opening”, referring to the buds on trees and etc, and by extension means Spring. Which would be an even better fit for how Germans named their months. So, Easter is named after a month, not a goddess. It's the month that is accused of being named after a long-lost goddess that likely never existed. Splitting hares? We don't think so. Do Americans honor Julius Caesar on the 4th of July? Of course not! It's not Julius Caesar's day. The day is named after the month. But July is named after Julius Caesar. Does that transfer a worship of Caesar to Independence Day? No, it doesn't. It's the same here.


What of the goddess Eostre?

There was no such goddess. No evidence for this goddess exists outside of Bede. None. Zero.
In the early 700s, the Venerable Bede mentions a defunct German goddess named Eostra. He mentions Eostre as a way to explain the name of the Anglo-Saxon month Eosturmonath. He says she was defunct by his time. Bede likely finished his book "The Reckoning of Time" in 725. The Saxons had only been converted in the 600s. For any deity to be completely defunct in that short of time is unlikely. The mention was almost certainly speculation on Bede’s part. Bede did speculate about goddesses elsewhere in his book, so it is highly plausible that he speculated here. The larger problem is we cannot find any evidence of such a deity anywhere. If we cannot find any evidence whatsoever, and we have other explanations for the month name, what else can we conclude but Bede made her up? It was a best guess by a learned scholar, but a wrong one.
In order to continue believing in Eostre, one must first agree that Bede is correct (we do not agree, but that's ok). Now, since other evidence is lacking, one must then rely on etymology of ancient proto-Indo-European root words far too old to truly be an indicator of German religious practices. That the ancestral root word of Eostre/Ostara does have a pagan association seems reasonable. But if you have to go back so far in time and so far away in space that you've lost all direct connection to the month name, we here think you've simply stretched the argument far too thin. We are no longer talking about Germans or the German language. We are talking language ancestors to all Europe, Russia, Iran, and India. An additional burden that comes from this is explaining why and how some southern Germanic tribes kept these extremely ancient deities but they were lost everywhere else.
Today, people invent all sorts and forms of things based on nothing. A quick Google search will prove that out. One published study paper claims that since we have no information, Easter had to have been a private, home goddess of children (I oversimplify, but nevertheless this is an accurate summary). Based on what? Two dictionaries, Bede, and a lot of imagination. That isn't how we do history here. 
Until we see actual evidence, we will stand on the claim that no such goddess existed in Germany and England.

What of the goddess Ostara?

No evidence of such a goddess exists.
In 1835, Jacob Grimm, of the Grimm Brothers fairy tales, wrote a book called “German Mythology”. This is roughly the same topic Bede wrote about. Grimm couldn't find any evidence for a goddess Eostre anywhere. We are concerned specifically with pages 289 - 291 of that book. Grimm came to realize Eostra was based on an old English word, and English comes from Old Low (northern) German, not Old High (southern) German. Grimm had a deep respect for Bede and tried to hypothesize a way that Bede could have been right. Bede was looking in the wrong language! Grimm speculated that perhaps the correct name would have been Ostara for the German month Ostarmanoth. I cannot say why Grimm thought it wise to invent a goddess in order to spare Bede from having invented a goddess. What did he find about Ostara? Nothing. We still find nothing.
Some linguists look at the etymological source of Ostara, which is aust- for answers, and conclude Ostara must have been a goddess of the dawn:
Old High German ostar "eastern" (from Proto-Germanic *aust- "east," literally "toward the sunrise," from PIE root *aus- (1) "to shine," especially of the dawn).
-"Austria", Etymology Online,, accessed 12/31/2023.
We are not convinced. Why would a month be named after a daily event? The German calendar was lunar, so why name a month after a solar event? We are talking roughly April, not March, so the solstice is eliminated. The German calendar already had a Spring Month, so Spring is out. And, most importantly, there is no record of a dawn goddess, let alone a dawn goddess with this name, so we are playing guessing games.
The month almost certainly does not come from a goddess at all, since Germans did not name their months after deities. One scholar, Ronald Hutton, in his book "Stations of the Sun", suggests the word means 'openings', as in the opening of flowers. It is, roughly, Flower Month. This would fall so much better into line with other German month names (e.g., Wine Month, Hay Month, Mud Month, Pasture Month).
So the first problem remains - it’s all conjecture! None of this Eostre/Ostara issue is based on solid evidence. 
Bede is the first and only source for Eostre and Grimm the first and only source for Ostara. All descriptions of said goddess - her appearance, companions, rites associated with her, etc - are outright fabricated out of thin air, or are improperly borrowed from Norse goddesses such as Freya. We strongly disagree with this practice.

What of the Austriahenae inscriptions?

In several hundred years of searching, the only potential evidence found for Ostara are 150 or so inscriptions in Latin that were found in 1958 near Morken-Harff, Germany. They date to hundreds of years before Bede, so that’s a good start. Also, they aren't in England, which is a requirement (the tradition must come from Germany to have any chance at being old enough).

The inscriptions mention goddesses, plural, not singular. That they are all found in one place indicates that they are local and not wide-spread goddesses. In other words, low probability of lending their name to an entire month. The goddesses are called by the umbrella title of "Mothers Austria-henae". ‘Austria’ could mean about anything, including a placename, or it could mean the same thing as Austria: east. There are several other goddesses with this –henae suffix (eg. Gesahenae, Mediotautehae, Albiahenae, Berguiahenae), and none of the prefixes in those instances are proper nouns, only vague descriptions of places or objects. Matron goddesses usually come in threes, not singles. The most reasonable explanation is the name Austria here is just a placename. In other words, they did not give their name to anything, instead they get their name from the place where they were worshipped. So, we don’t have one widespread goddess named Ostara, we have multiple, local goddesses named Austria, honored in one place, who were called Mothers. That doesn't translate well into a month named Ostarmonath.

Was Ostara’s consort a hare?

No, Eostra/Ostara’s consort was not a hare or a rabbit. None have yet found evidence of Eostra/Ostara. Period. We don't even know what the right name is. (This is precisely the same issue with Nimrod.) If we cannot find this goddess, then it should go without saying that no one has ever found evidence of her consort. Until we do find some evidence to base this claim on, we can conclusively say no to it. All descriptions of said goddess - her appearance, companions, rites associated with her, etc - are outright fabricated out of thin air, or are improperly borrowed from Norse goddesses such as Freya. But the stories conjured up don’t really match Freya either!
I cannot tell you how exceedingly many websites we have been to that parrot invented claims about Eostra/Ostara. None are documented, some are quite elaborate in their claims, but few match each other. I have heard that Eostra/Ostara had a hare as a consort, had the head of a hare, had a rabbit following, went around in a sleigh pulled by rabbits, was honored with rabbits and eggs, was the goddess of the dawn, was the goddess of fertility, was the goddess of children, was honored on Easter day, was honored for a full month… the claims go on and on and on.

Is Eostra/Ostara actually Ishtar?

No. There is no record of any goddess Eostra outside of Bede’s “The Reckoning of Time” and there is no truly solid evidence for Ostara outside of Grimm’s “German Mythology”, but there is even less evidence yet for such a claim relating them to Ishtar. Before we can speculate on names, we have to find the goddess, or else we are talking about nothing at all. 
This claim is based on nothing but shady etymology. These names are an example of what etymologists call a “false cognate” or “false friend”. The words sound alike and backstory is imagined from there. We reject this. 
That the names of deities can change over time and from place to place is not in doubt. It happens. The question is whether or not it happened here. The answer is no for at least two reasons:
1) Because we cannot find Eostre/Ostara. One must invent a goddess, then imagine a name change. 
2) We have a better explanation. Germans didn't name their months after deities. Rather, months were named after natural events and regular work (e.g., Winter Month, Hay Month, Wood Month, Pasture Month). The Old High German word indicates openings, as in the blooming of flowers.
Easter does not get its name from Ishtar nor any other goddess related to Ishtar. Easter has as much to do with Ishtar as Australia has to do with the Norse god Austr.

Did Ishtar hatch from an egg?

No. This claim was created quite recently and is being spread around the Internet by people with an axe to grind. There is no historicity to this claim.
Multiple ancient cultures imagined the cosmos to be like an egg. This is called the World Egg. Mesopotamia, where Ishtar originates, did not have a World Egg. In that area, the heavens and the earth are a goddess, Tiamat, cut in half. A few cultures had deities who hatched from the World Egg or some kind of egg. Ishtar is not one of them. Deities who hatched from eggs include Egyptian Ra (one version anyway), the Orphic Greek deity Phanes, and sometimes the Roman Mithra (at least in England).
The next time you see a claim like this, take a look at the sources cited. Take a look at the historical documents they use to build their case. I’ll bet you there aren’t any. If there are, you can be sure the trail will lead back to a dead end.
All this talk about Ishtar ultimately relies on Ishtar being Eostra/Ostara, which we discuss elsewhere and conclude is not possible.

Did Ishtar have rabbits and eggs as her symbols?

No. We have no evidence of this. Ishtar had many symbols. Ishtar's original symbol was a doorway. Ishtar’s main symbols were an eight-pointed star (representing the planet Venus), a lion for her warlike qualities, a rosette/flower shape, doves, and snakes. Various other symbols were also connected to Ishtar, but hares and eggs weren’t among them. It makes no sense whatsoever that symbols not even associated with Ishtar would be handed down in her honor while her main symbols were lost.
All this talk about Ishtar ultimately relies on Ishtar being Eostra/Ostara, which we discuss elsewhere and conclude is not possible.

Is Good Friday the day Babylonians wept for Tammuz?

No. The weeping for Tammuz happened in the month of Tammuz, which is several months after Pascha not before it.
"The well-known lamentations for Tammuz, for which there is massive evidence, took place in the month named after the god, at midsummer. In the Epic of Gilgamesh (vi, 46-7) Ishtar is said to have decreed annual lamentations for her lover Dumuzi. The hemerologies state that the lamentations and "binding" of Tammuz were celebrated in the month Tammuz (Du'uzu); the weeping took place on the second day and on the 9th, 16th and 17th there were processions of torches. On the last three days of the month there was a ceremony called taklimtu in which the effigy of the dead god was laid out for burial. The season of these ceremonies corresponds to that of the well-known wailings for Tammuz celebrated in early Christian times by the Sabeans at Harran and of those for Adonis in Athens, Byblos and Alexandria,and is therefore not in doubt."
-Oliver. Gurney, "Tammuz Reconsidered: Some Recent Developments", Harvard Semitic Studies, 1962, pp. 156-157.
“Good Friday” is the English name for the Friday on which Jesus died.
Some people do not accept that Jesus died on Friday, and that's fine since timing is trivial. Others cannot bare the notion, so they search for some alternate explanation. Some are not above just making one up. But there is no alternate explanation. The early church from the late first century really did believe and teach that Jesus died on a Friday and rose on a Sunday. Whether they were right or wrong, that is the explanation.

Wasn't Tammuz gored by a boar and that's where we get Lent?

No. Not even remotely close. Even though this claim comes from an older History Channel "History in 60" video, it is not true. I want to point something out here.
It wasn't Tammuz that was gored, it was Adonis. Does Adonis come from Tammuz? All signs point to yes. Adonis seems very much patterned after Tammuz. So, if Adonis comes from Tammuz, why can't we say Tammuz was gored by a boar? Because we aren't dealing with a simple name change here. Adonis comes from Tammuz but Adonis is not Tammuz. Even if the syncretism is completely valid, Adonis has his own unique characteristics. Traditions surrounding him are being improperly projected backwards in time. Traditions aren't a wardrobe for us to mix and match and arrange as we wish. You cannot take a tradition from Greece in the first millennium BC, move it a thousand miles away and a thousand years backwards in time, then apply it to Tammuz in Babylon in the second millennium BC. How do we know Adonis was gored? Because we have records of what happened. How do we know Tammuz was not gored? Because we have records of what happened and being gored is not included. You can make the case Adonis is Tammuz, but you cannot apply the conditions of Adonis to Tammuz - because reality doesn't work that way. 
It's like this - The United States came from Britain, but the United States is not Britain, so you cannot take what happens in the United States and move it backwards in time to Britain. You cannot say King George III freed the southern slaves. You cannot say Ronald Reagan drove the Viking invaders out of London. Do you see how ridiculous that is to claim? It is every bit as ridiculous to do this to myths and religious traditions. If I told a Babylonian that Tammuz was gored by a boar, he'd probably hit me with his shoe for troubling him with my ignorance.

Is the cross just the first letter of the name Tammuz?

No. This claim is ridiculous. Tammuz, also pronounced Damuzid, is a very ancient Sumerian/Chaldean god of shepherds and vegetation. The people of that time didn’t have the letter T. They wrote in Cuneiform. Chaldeans wouldn’t know what a T is. Apart from this claim contradicting good sense, there is no reliable history supporting it. If we define crucifixion loosely as executing a person by nailing them to something, the first recorded crucifixion comes from Persia. The area is close to being correct for this claim, but, again, they used Cuneiform. By the time you get to cultures that have an alphabet, the name of Tammuz had become Adonis.
It is a well-established fact that crucifixes did have various shapes. They were single stakes, a T shape (upper case T), a t shape (lower case t), and X shape, sometimes people were nailed to trees, and sometimes there were two uprights with the victim stretched between them. Anything with a T shape is considered “cruciform”, so strong is the connection between that shape and crucifixion. Note that it is not called “Tammuziform”. The diversity of shapes take explanatory power away from the Tammuz claim.
This claim comes to us from people who are trying to find a way to accuse mainstream Christianity of paganism. The claim isn't really that all crosses are from Tammuz, just the ones in a T or t shape. People making this claim still believe Jesus was crucified, just not on a T or t shape. Their preference is a stake or a tree. Notice that none of them are saying, "I am a pagan because I use the letter T, which stands for Tammuz, just as much as anyone else." No. They only say you are pagan because of the cross.
Whether the cross on which Jesus was executed was a classic shape or not is inconsequential. The cross in the Christian context represents the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It is by far the most widely recognized Christian symbol.

Do we know the correct shape of Jesus' cross?

No. No one on this earth knows. One culture depicts it this way, and another that way, but no one knows for certain. The oldest records are silent. The oldest known image of Jesus on a cross comes from Roman graffiti mocking Jesus. He is nailed to a T shape (upper case) cross. In this image, Jesus has the head of a donkey. This image is incorrect (and not just because of the donkey head). Matthew 27: 37 is clear that Pontius Pilate put a notice above Jesus' head. That could not happen on a T shape or an X shape. So, the choices are narrowed to a stake, a tree, and the classic t shape. 
We know from all Gospels that Jesus carried His cross, but here the opinions diverge. The question is, what exactly did Jesus carry and hand to Simon of Cyrene? If Jesus carried the whole cross or just the upright, then a tree is eliminated as you cannot carry a tree. If Jesus carried the patibulum - the cross piece - only, then the stake is eliminated as a stake has no patibulum. Only the classic t shape works in all scenarios. Even so, we cannot say one way or the other.
What's more, we have no idea how Jesus was affixed to the cross. Were His arms tied or not? We don't know. His hands were nailed, but was it hands or wrists? Nails through the wrist was a popular theory recently, but that has fallen out of favor. So, there is a very good chance his hands were nailed. Did they nail his feet individually or together? We don't know. To a horizonal piece through the tops of the feet, or to the upright itself through the ankles? We don't know. Archaeologists have found the ankle bone of someone with a nail through it, which makes it a tempting choice, but people were crucified in so many ways we just cannot say for certain how it actually happened in Jesus' case. But there is a good chance the nails were not nine inches long. Modern research indicates the nails would have been closer to four inches long.


Where does the tradition of eggs come from if not from paganism?

The tradition of Easter Eggs comes from the Lentin prohibition against eating eggs. Eggs could not be eaten during Lent, so they would be eaten up before Lent then stored up and eaten after Lent. The first mention of a tradition of coloring eggs is from the 1400’s AD.
As for coloring the eggs, no one seems to know where that started. The decorating of eggs seems to come from many sources, some of which could perhaps come from pagan tradition.
Some say it started with the Persian New Year celebration, “Nowruz” (but these ones never explain how it got to us). This is incredibly difficult to verify since I do not read Persian and cannot verify any reliable source material. Some say it began with the Ukranians and the Pysanky egg (a forged poem tying the pysanky to paganism has been making the rounds on the Internet). Some people say it started in Medieval England with the Pace egg, but that doesn't sound reasonable. Some people say it started with the Orthodox who died eggs red to symbolize Jesus’ death then cracked the egg to symbolize His resurrection (the Orthodox use symbolism quite a lot, so this is at least plausible). Some people say it started with the ancient Chinese (again, no explanation on how that came to us).
Lastly we have the special group of people who just make up a story out of thin air and say it came from Nimrod and Semiramis. Some people have determined in their minds from the outset that eggs and rabbits absolutely must be pagan, and therefore some pagan explanation must account for them. Notice how the outcome was already determined at the outset. At that point, some people will accept anything at all, so long as it appears to support their predetermined conclusion. Beware of this, dear reader!
Though we are completely unable to verify for certain, it is plausible that the Orthodox Church adopted egg coloring from the Sarrasid Persians into the Byzantine Empire. That might explain why colored eggs seem so popular in Eastern Europe. It might also explain why both the Orthodox and Catholics have this tradition. If you are going to be eating a lot of eggs after Lent anyway, why not color them?

Do Easter Eggs come from the eggs used at the Passover Seder?

No. They are actually unrelated. The earliest record of Easter Eggs is from the 1400s AD, while the earliest record of Passover Eggs is from the 1600s AD. Both traditions existed before they were written about, but it still seems most likely the tradition of Easter Eggs is slightly older. If so, then Easter Eggs cannot come from Passover Eggs. The most reasonable explanation is neither came from the other. Their origins are very different, they are used in very different ways, and their symbolic meanings are very different. They are only similar in that they are hard boiled.

Where does the tradition of the Easter Bunny come from?

No one quite knows. Yes, rabbits have been fertility symbols for millennia – they have been symbols for a great many things for millennia - but that is not prima fasciae evidence that Christians stole rabbits from the pagans. We simply do not know. But we do know the tradition is relatively recent and should not be misused to poison the entire Easter holiday.
Hares were very popular symbols among Christians in Medieval Europe, especially after the Crusades. Because people in the Middle Ages were generally ignorant about the life cycle of hares, they became symbols for a number of things. George Ferguson in his book “Signs and Symbols in Christian Art” p.20 sums a very long story up nicely as so:
“The hare, itself defenseless, is a symbol of men who put the hope of their salvation in the Christ and His Passion. It is also a well-known symbol of lust and fecundity. A white hare is sometimes placed at the feet of the Virgin Mary to indicate her triumph over lust.”
Yes, rabbits were used as a symbol by Christians. No, the presence of rabbits does not prove paganism. But we want to know about one rabbit in particular.

The trail of the Easter Bunny starts in Europe, most likely the Protestants in the Alsace region of Germany. Originally the animal was a hare, not a rabbit exactly, and it was called “Ostern Hase” which translates to Easter Hare. The first mention comes from Georg Franck von Frankenau in his writing “De Ovis Paschalibus” [“On Easter Eggs”] in 1682. He said:
“In Alsace and the neighboring regions those eggs are called hare-eggs because of the myth that is told to make the simple-minded and children believe that the Easter Hare was laying and hiding them in the grass of the gardens, so the children search them even more eagerly, for the delectation of the smiling adults.”
In other words, the Germans were hiding Easter eggs for the kids to find. The kids asked where the eggs came from. The adults thought it would be good fun to say the hares were laying the eggs. The kids loved it! And that is the best explanation we have for the Easter Bunny.

The Easter Hare eventually became much like Santa Claus, bringing treats to good children and orphans. The Pennsylvania Dutch brought this tradition to the Americas, and it has developed here ever since.
 “Peter Cottontail” comes from a song whose lyrics were written in 1949 by Jack Rollins (who also wrote Frosty the Snowman). Music written by Steve Nelson, performed by Gene Autry.
-"West Virginia songwriter Jack Rollins penned the best known Easter song 'Peter Cottontail'". 4-22-2011.
Claims of rank paganism are simply overstating the facts. It could be quite as innocent as the tale related by Doctor von Frankenau. Since the Easter Bunny traces its roots to the 1600’s, then I find it quite anachronistic to smear the entire Easter festival on its account.


How can we fit “three days and three nights” into Friday evening to Sunday morning?

We can do so with two things: Onah and Jonah.
Onah -- We can do this by using inclusive reckoning. The ancient Jews counted inclusively, and had a concept called the “onah” to explain this. With inclusive reckoning, both the first and the last of a series are included in the count, and any part of a day counts as the whole thing. Anciently, all Mediterranean cultures counted this way, including Israel. Most in the West do not count this way any longer. It is entirely inappropriate to force our counting systems on the authors of the Bible.
Jonah – We can do this since the sign of Jonah was not 72 hours in a great fish, rather it was his symbolic death resurrection from the great fish. The exact time was never Jesus’ point; the fact of the literal death and resurrection was.
In the Old Testament where “three days and three nights” is used, or “three days, night and day” is used, it is clearer that a literal 72-hours was never understood and never meant to be understood. The ancients knew what an hour is, and knew there were 24 hours in a day, but that did not affect their method of inclusive counting.
In this system of counting, making sure to count the first and the last in the series, Friday is day 1, Saturday is day 2, and Sunday is day 3. In this system it doesn't matter if Jesus died late and rose early. Recall, any part counts as the whole. Thursday would be 4 days from Sunday, and Wednesday 5 days. This is how days are counted throughout the Bible. If you count the way the Bible counts, you can hardly come to any other conclusion than a Friday-Sunday scenario.

See our article "Three Days and Three Nights" for a much fuller explanation.

Is 'Three Days and Three Nights' means to be a literal 72-hours?

No. As beloved as this claim is for some, there is no Biblical evidence this phrase is meant to be a literal 72-hours. In fact, the evidence shows the opposite. This is just a claim some people like quite a bit and refuse to look at objectively.
The length of Jesus' entombment was described in more than one way:
  • "The third day" 11 times.
  • "In three days" 5 times.
  • "After three days" 2 times.
  • "On the third day" 1 time.
  • "Within three days" 1 time.
Several different phrases that all describe the exact same event. They can't all be literal. Why is 'three days and three nights' supposed to be?
Jesus mentioned Jonah. Is there any marker of time in Jonah that will prove this is a literal 72-hours? None at all. It just says three days and three nights, then moves on. I Samuel 30: 12 uses the same phrase, then in the very next verse says "three days ago". The time marker in the very next verse tells us this this period started "three days ago". Two different ways to say the same thing. But when we go to Esther 4: 16, we see the phrase "three days, night or day". A time marker in Esther 5: 1 shows this period ended "on the third day". There is no literal 72-hours in either of these selections. They do the same thing as the Gospels - use unspecific language and count inclusively.
If we take Jesus' words regarding 12 hours in a day (JON. 11: 9) as our standard, things get much worse. We now have to explain how Jesus can be resurrected on the third 12-hour period, in three 12-hour periods, after three 12-hour periods, and exactly 72 hours - all at the same time. We cannot.
The best and only workable explanation is these mentions of time are not specific and not intended to be taken literally.

See our article "Three Days and Three Nights" for a lot more on this.

Was a literal 72-hour period of entombment the only sign Jesus gave of His messiahship?

No. Jesus gave a sign, but not of a literal 72-hour entombment. Look it up. You won't see the words "72-hours" in the bible anywhere. We admit that is poor argumentation on our part, so let's move to some actual evidence.
Jesus gave one sign, stated in two ways. In Matthew 12: 39-40 & 16: 4, and Luke 11: 29-30, He gave the sign of Jonah the prophet. Only Matthew 12 mentions time. But when we go to John 2: 18-19 we see an entirely different sign, the sign of the temple being destroyed and rebuilt in three days. Notice, three days, not three days and three nights. That temple sign means the sign of Jonah is not the only one. Yet, Jesus said only one sign would be given: the sign of Jonah. A clear Bible contradiction? No. If we understand what Jesus was referring to, both the sign of Jonah and the sign of the Temple are the same sign, spoken in two ways. That sign is His death and resurrection. That is the one and only sign. Jonah and the Temple are one thing spoken of in two ways; "three days and three nights" and "three days" are one thing spoken of in two ways.
Now that we know what the only sign actually is - the fact of a death and a resurrection - we can put to bed any talk about, "The only sign is a literal 72-hour three days and three nights."

See our article "Three Days and Three Nights" for a much fuller explanation.

Does the Holy Week support a Wednesday or Thursday crucifixion?

Most likely, no. All options have issues to overcome. The confusion here appears to come from people attempting to force modern unfamiliarity with ancient words and counting methods into a system that absolutely depends on ancient words and counting methods.
Wednesday -
Wednesday seems completely out of the question. If the crucifixion were on Wednesday, then Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple would have been on the prior Sabbath, and that simply is not possible. It ignores the Hebrew method of counting inclusively. It depends on redefining the words sabbaton and prosabbaton. It demands a literal 72-hour entombment, which is not supported in the Bible. Plus, the words of Cleopas on the Damascus Road preclude it (we’ll get to that elsewhere).
Thursday -
Thursday has issues, too. If the crucifixion were on Thursday, then the Triumphal Entry would have been on the prior Sabbath, and that also is improbable due to legal restrictions prohibiting some of the things Jesus and the crowd did. Not only that, but it puts a holy day back-to-back with the weekly Sabbath. Two days without cooking was not favored. The Jews have been known to postpone holy days so they did not fall immediately before or after a weekly Sabbath. It depends on redefining the words sabbaton and prosabbaton. Plus, the words of Cleopas on the Damascus Road preclude it (we’ll get to that elsewhere). Some people say, "It's easy. Just count three days from Thursday - Thursday to Friday, Friday to Saturday, and Saturday to Sunday - and you have your answer." However, this is not how Hebrews counted time. They count inclusively.
Friday -
Friday is supported by the Early Church Fathers as well as the language of the GospelsThe words of Cleopas on the Damascus Road support only a Friday crucifixion (we’ll get to that elsewhere), Friday is the only one that fits with inclusive reckoning - Friday is day 1, Saturday is day 2, and Sunday is day 3 (we explain this elsewhere). Plus, only in a Friday crucifixion scenario can Jesus fulfill the symbolism of the Day of Firstfruits and the Wave Sheaf Offering in both the understanding of the Pharisees and the Saducees.

What you will never completely glean from the Bible, but can glean from other ancient sources, is that the Jews referred to every day by a number according to its place in the week. Sunday is the first day of the week, Monday is the second day, and so forth. Some claim only the seventh day had a proper name: Sabbath. But that's not entirely true. In time, Friday also received a name. Friday was called "prosabbaton" prosabbaton means the day before sabbaton. In other words, prosabbaton is the proper name for Friday. Friday was also loosely called "paraskeue." Paraskeue means preparation day.
We can know from other documents that paraskeue and prosabbaton refer to Friday, not the least of which is a decree from Caesar Augustus declaring that no Jew could be compelled to go to court past the 9th hour on Friday [paraskeue] (
You could also see the deuterocanonical book of Judith, chapter 8 verse 6: "And she fasted all the days of her widowhood, except for the eves of the sabbaths [prosabbaton] and the sabbaths, and the eves of the new moons and the new moons, and the feasts and solemn days of the house of Israel." By using the words paraskeue and prosabbaton, Mark went out of his way to tell us this was a Friday.

With this much support, Friday is by far the best option.

Does Matthew 28: 1 say there two Sabbaths during the crucifixion week?

No. The confusion here appears to come from people who are unfamiliar with language trying to force novel definitions into ancient words and idioms.
In Matthew 28: 1, the Greek word for Sabbath, sabbaton, appears twice, and both are plural.  
(MAT. 28: 1)[MKJV] But late in the week [sabbaton], at the dawning into the first day of the week [sabbaton].
The proper translations for sabbaton, depending on context, can be Sabbath, Sabbaths, and week. The best option here is week, for both the first and the second sabbaton. Many versions translate the first as Sabbath, but we prefer the MKJV here which translates both as week. It is more consistent. But why is week an option at all? Because sabbaton can be an idiom, specifically a synecdoche. A synecdoche is an idiom where a whole is represented by its parts. Much like the word wheels can refer to a car, the word sabbaton can refer to a week by referring to the two Sabbaths that book end the week.

Herbert Armstrong, and many since him, claimed the first sabbaton referred to an annual holy day and then a weekly Sabbath two days later. But language isn't a grab bag where words can mean whatever we wish. In the entire New Testament, Sabbaton never refers to a holy day, let alone a combination of a holy day and a weekly Sabbath later on. This is not a proper translation of sabbaton. A holy day may be a sabbath, but holy days have their own word: "hoerte". In Colossians 2: 16, Paul separates "Sabbath day" (sabbaton) from "holyday" (heorte) in the same sentence. They are different words. Armstrong went on to claim the second sabbaton referred to the seven-week count to Pentecost. In other words, he translated it as "weeks" plural. He pluralized the plural. This is also not a proper translation of sabbaton. The word sabbaton never refers to the count to Pentecost, nor can it be translated weeks plural. The word "weeks" never appears in the New Testament. His translation claims must be rejected.

See our article "The Two Sabbaths of Matthew 28" for more info.

Was Cleopas referring to the setting of the guard when he said “these things”?

No. Cleopas said exactly what he meant.
(ACT. 10: 20) and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him.
No setting of the guards is mentioned. 
It was argued by Herbert Armstrong and others that Cleopas was referring to all of the events of Jesus' crucifixion including the setting of the guard, which happened the next day after entombment (MAT. 27: 65-66). The goal was to push the crucifixion as far away from Sunday as possible by saying, "Sunday is three days from rolling the stone," and thus make a Wednesday crucifixion seem to work. This cannot work, however, because A) Cleopas doesn't say that, and B) it has to work the same way in reverse. If Cleopas is referring to all of the events, we cannot be three days from the rolling of the stone only, we have to be three days from the trial. A Wednesday crucifixion wouldn’t work because Sunday is not three days from the trial. When Cleopas specifically mentions the trial, we cannot just ignore that in preference of something he did not say.
Events on Thursday will not work, either. The Jews, as with most people in their day, counted inclusively. All days involved are included in the count. For example, when Cornelius says “four days ago” he meant that current day and the three prior (ACT. 10: 30). In the same way, when Cleopas said “today is the third day” he meant that current day and the two prior (LUK. 24: 21). In other words, Cleopas, speaking on Sunday, could only be referring to Friday.
If the events were on Wednesday, Cleopas would have said, "Today is the fifth day." If the events were on Thursday, Cleopas would have said, “Today is the fourth day." He did not. He said, "Today is the third day," which can only mean Friday. Wednesday and Thursday do not work.

Was there a holy day then a weekly Sabbath in the crucifixion week?

Most likely no. In the entire Greek Bible (the Septuagint was the Bible the Apostles themselves used), ‘sabbaton’ is only used once in reference to one annual high day, and that is the Day of Atonement (LEV. 23: 32). Never Passover. So there is no reason to assume the Apostles associated 'sabbaton' with the first day of Passover. This becomes even weightier when we consider the word 'sabbaton' is never used in exclusive reference to an annual high day in the New Testament. Proper translations of ‘sabbaton’ include “Sabbath” singular, “Sabbaths” plural, and “week”.
“Week” is sometimes a proper translation since a plural ‘sabbaton’ is often idiomatic; a synecdoche. When ‘sabbaton’ is plural, it can refer to a week by referring to both of the Sabbaths that book-end the week. Context is key here. In Matthew 28: 1, both appearances of ‘sabbaton’ are correctly translated “week”, since they refer to the end of the week (Saturday) and the beginning of the week (Sunday). So there is no annual holy day mentioned in Matthew 28: 1.

The Greek word 'paraskeue' is translated "Preparation Day" and is recognized as meaning Friday. To place Preparation Day on a different week day we need to change the meaning of 'paraskeue'. We should give a reason why the term needs to be redefined. Mark goes out of his way to tell us that this Preparation Day was Friday by including the term ‘prosabbaton’, which also means Friday, and is translated “the day before the [weekly] Sabbath” (MAR. 15: 42). So, we also need to give reason why "prosabbaton" must be redefined. If you have to change the definition of two words to get your timeline, you are doing it wrong.

John 19: 31 tells us that the Sabbath was an annual holy day. However John does not tell us that this Sabbath was not a weekly Sabbath. Which leaves the possibility that this day was both a weekly Sabbath and an annual holy day. John simply says (and I paraphrase), “that Sabbath day was great”. The first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread can fall on a weekly Sabbath. So we have to give valid reasons why they could not have both been on the same day. That is where the rest of the available evidence comes in, and we see it leads to a Friday crucifixion.

When did the women prepare spices?

Exactly when is inconclusive, but most likely once during the crucifixion and again Saturday evening after sundown.
Mark 16: 1 says after the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less, and Salome the mother of James and John purchased spices to anoint Jesus with.
Luke 23: 56 says that before the Sabbath, the women from Galilee (presumably these same women mentioned above) prepared spices.
This leaves us with three main theories.
Theory one is a Wednesday crucifixion which puts Mark before Luke chronologically. In this scenario, on Thursday there is an annual holy day. This theory rests on a holy day being called 'sabbaton' but this is not an acceptable translation of sabbaton. Friday would then be both before and after a sabbath. The women purchased spices on Friday and prepared spices. One wonders why the women did not visit the tomb on Friday since they had spices and an entire free day.
Theory two is the traditional Friday or even a Thursday crucifixion, which puts Luke before Mark chronologically. In this scenario, the women prepared spices along with Nicodemus (Luke 23: 56), then they rested on the weekly Sabbath (a Thursday crucifixion would mean a back-to-back annual holy day then weekly Sabbath day), then Saturday evening after the Sabbath was complete the women purchased more spices as in Mark 16: 1.
Theory three is the possibility of an outright error in either one of the Gospels.
We prefer theory two. To expand on the Thursday/Friday scenarios:
The Bible never tells us what quantity of spices the women had. There is nothing that stops the women from preparing spices before the Sabbath with Nicodemus and after the weekly Sabbath on their own. Since we know Nicodemus arrived in short order with around one hundred pounds of spices, myrrh, and aloes, we can conclude that these things were readily available. Martha also had a large quantity of ointment on hand (JON. 12: 3). Also, there is every reason to believe shops in Jerusalem opened immediately after sundown on the Sabbath and holy days, especially during what is one of the busiest times of the year.
Long story short, the timing of the spices is no help at all in determining which crucifixion scenario is correct, since all crucifixion scenarios have plausible explanations. The answer must come from the rest of the evidence. That is where theory two shines.

Does Johns show "third day" actually refers to the fourth day?

No. To explain, John 1: 29 says "on the next day", then v.35 says "Again, the next day", then v.43 says "The following day", and then John 2: 1 says, "On the third day". Some people look at that and conclude, "John says 'on the third day' when it was actually the fourth day, so 'third day' is a phrase that refers to the fourth day." There are several examples showing this is not how Jews used the phrase 'third day'. They counted inclusively. The phrase 'third day' is easily recognizable as being the same as 'day after tomorrow' (e.g., EXO. 19: 10-11; HOS. 5: 2). There are four explanations for John's choice of words. 1) John is referring to Tuesday which was called 'the third day', 2) John counts no earlier than John 1: 35 where Jesus first gains a following, 3) John means it had been three days since v.43 where Jesus decides to go to Galilee, and 4) John means it is the third day since Jesus entered Galilee where Cana is. The distance between where John was baptizing in the Jordan in Judea (somewhere due west of Jericho) and Cana of Galilee is over 30 miles with Samaria in between, meaning they would have to first go east into the Decapolis to go north then west into Galilee. In theory that trek could have been made in one day, with a maximum effort, but that would be highly unlikely as the text does not seem to indicate that at all. The most reasonable conclusion is option #3, which grants one full day for travel and two part days. There is no clear way to settle which is the correct option, but it is abundantly clear 'the third day' cannot be defined as the fourth day in a series, as this is contraindicated from the rest of the Biblical text and extra-biblical literature. That is simply not a possible option.

See our article "Three Days and Three Nights" for more.

Does the Didiscalia Apostolorum say Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday?

No. The Didiscalia Apostolorum in chapter XXI says they ate the Last Supper on a Tuesday evening, but it diverts from the usual timeline here. The document claims there was more time between the Seder and the crucifixion than just one night. That does make some sense, and it solves the issue of a silent day in the Gospels. 
The very same paragraph says, "For when we had eaten the Passover on the third day of the week at even..." also says this, "And they asked Him of Pilate to be put to death; and they crucified Him on the same Friday." Both quotes are from the same paragraph. It couldn't possibly be more clear. Anyone who says this document supports a Wednesday crucifixion did not even bother to read one whole paragraph from it.


Does Lent come from the weeping for Tammuz?

No. The weeping for Tammuz happened in the month of Tammuz, which is three months after Pascha, not before it. 
"The well-known lamentations for Tammuz, for which there is massive evidence, took place in the month named after the god,at midsummer. In the Epic of Gilgamesh (vi, 46-7) Ishtar is said to have decreed annual lamentations for her lover Dumuzi. The hemerologies state that the lamentations and "binding" of Tammuz were celebrated in the month Tammuz (Du'uzu); the weeping took place on the second day and on the 9th, 16th and 17th there were processions of torches. On the last three days of the month there was a ceremony called taklimtu in which the effigy of the dead god was laid out for burial. The season of these ceremonies corresponds to that of the well-known wailings for Tammuz celebrated in early Christian times by the Sabeans at Harran and of those for Adonis in Athens, Byblos and Alexandria,and is therefore not in doubt."
-Oliver. Gurney, "Tammuz Reconsidered: Some Recent Developments"; Harvard Semitic Studies, 1962, pp. 156-157.
Tammuz is the fourth Hebrew month, whereas Lent ends at Easter which is in the first Hebrew month. Which means Lent begins in the last Hebrew month.

The weeping for Tammuz didn’t last 40 days. As you can see in the quote above, the weeping was on two separate, non-contiguous days. That doesn't resemble Lent at all. At first, Lent didn’t last 40 days either. Originally there were a variety of lengths and forms of fasting, with 24 to 40 hours being considered the most popular. Clearly, the people who conflate Lent with Tammuz are not basing their claims on the facts.

Where did Lent come from if not from paganism?

Lent comes from the ancient Jewish tradition of fasting. Particularly, Lent comes from the Fast of the Firstborn. A fast before Pascha is spoken of by Eusebius, who relates a letter from Irenaeus, who himself relates its origins to be handed down.
For the controversy is not only concerning the day, but also concerning the very manner of the fast. For some think that they should fast one day, others two, yet others more; some, moreover, count their day as consisting of forty hours day and night."
-Eusebius, “Church History”, book 5 chapter 24. [Bold mine.]
Eusebius later mentions Polycarp coming to Rome to discuss this issue with Bishop Anicetus of Rome. This would have been around 150 AD. Also, Dionysius the Bishop of Alexandria, in his letter to Basilides, Bishop of the Churches in the Pentapolis (Cyrenaica), written somewhere in the late 240s AD, goes into great detail about the paschal fast, even mentioning six days of fasting. This demonstrates the fast existed both in the east and the west. Also, the Didascalia Apostolorum, which claims to be written by the Apostles but was actually written in the 200s, in chapter 21 mentions the paschal fast. As you can see, these things are quite early.
It is known that the day before Easter was spent fasting and a vigil watch. It is believed a 40-hour fast became popular because some people believed Jesus was entombed for 40 hours. It wasn’t until long after the 300’s that a 40-day fast became widespread.
Early Christians fasted quite often. Some cities fasted every Friday to commemorate Jesus’ death. Many cities fasted every Saturday. Catholics and Orthodox both still have the tradition of fasting from Saturday night until they receive the Eucharist.
Think about this. If both the East and the West were fasting before the Lord's Supper for varying lengths on different days, how can it be from one single pagan practice? If it was adopted from one pagan practice, it would have been for the same length on the same days.


When is Easter?

The Council of Nicaea voted and decided to set the date as the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the Vernal Equinox. This formula sets the date, putting it on a fixed day of the week, yet keeps it close to the actual time when Jesus ate the Last Supper. Anciently, Passover was generally on the first full moon on or after the Vernal Equinox. This is the timing of Easter.
The Roman Catholics still follow this formula while the Orthodox set their Easter using the Julian Calendar and these 4 criteria: 1) after the Vernal Equinox, and 2) with a full moon, and 3) after March 21st. The biggest difference between Catholic and Orthodox comes down to very old calculations that predicted full moons. The Catholics updated their calculations while the Orthodox did not.

Here is a curious thought on this timing of Easter. Since the old Hebrew Calendar was lunar, it didn't align with the solar calendar we use. Nissan 14 could be any day of the week. Since Easter is locked closely to the original time of the Last Supper, there is a chance Easter will accidentally be on the original Nissan 14 from time to time. But since the new Jewish calendar is not like the old, we can never really know if the new Nissan 14 will ever be in alignment with the old.

Should I observe Easter if it's at the wrong time?

That's up to you, but we feel it's not at the "wrong" time. When our Lord and His Apostles ate the Last Supper, they did so one evening early; the evening before the lambs were killed, not the evening after. That night, Jesus said, "Do this in memory of Me." The Lord's Supper was a Seder meal, but our observance isn't the same as Passover. We do not do this in memory of the Exodus. We do this in memory of Jesus. This is the New Covenant Pascha, not the Old Covenant Passover. Some Christians feel all should keep the Passover, but none have been able to explain how Gentiles can legally do that. Exodus 12: 43 specifically outlaws Gentiles from keeping the Passover, "And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 'This is the ordinance of the Passover: No foreigner [Gentile] shall eat it'." Gentiles, strangers to the Covenant, were barred from Passover. The Old Covenant is abrogated. We are in the New Covenant now. Tell me from the New Testament, what is the right time to observe the Lord's Supper? It doesn't say! Some people feel it has to be on Passover. But why? Jesus didn't eat it at the same time as the Passover Seder. Why must we? Some people say it has to be on the 14th of Nissan. But why? The Jewish calendar today isn't the same calendar as the one from the first century. What is the correct Nissan 14? Which timing has the scriptural backing from the New Testament? None of them. So it's up to us to decide. The early church held an Ecumenical Council, debated the issue, and they decided. Therefore, Easter is not at the wrong time. That Council gave you the best answer you are going to find.

Should I keep Easter if honoring the resurrection isn't in the Bible?

That's up to you. The Bible nowhere says to avoid holidays it does not command. This idea didn't come from the Bible. The Jews had days they were required to observe. They could observe no fewer, but nothing said they could observe no more. In fact the Bible shows the opposite. The Jews made up holidays and God not only recorded it in the Bible but personally took part in those days. Hanukkah is not commanded, but Jesus participated (JON. 10: 22). Or take Purim for example. Esther 9: 27 tells us, “The Jews established and imposed it upon themselves and their descendants and all who would join them, that without fail they should celebrate these two days every year, according to the written instructions and according to the prescribed time...”.  So what can we see here? It is entirely Biblical to create a holiday to honor God. God apparently even participates.
The Jews made a holiday called Purim to honor the miracle of God saving them from the Persians. The Jews made another holiday to honor a miracle of oil lasting for eight days. How much more, then, should all mankind honor the single greatest miracle that ever was or ever will be? God became flesh for this single purpose. All of the Old Testament builds up to this single point. History tells us no less than Peter and Paul taught the Gentiles to honor it. It has Biblical standing and it has Apostolic standing. If that isn't sufficient, I don't know what is.
Nothing in the New Covenant is forcing you to observe any day. If you don't observe, then to the Lord do not observe it. Simple as that. But, yet again, please leave the moral superiority at home. No one is any better or worse than anyone else if they abstain, or if they observe but do so by a different name, so long as they do it in faith.

Is the King James Version right in translating Acts 12: 4 as “Easter”?

No (and yes). This is more a matter of opinion, but since the KJV is an English translation, and the English word for Pascha is Easter, then Easter is a correct translation of Pascha. Problem is Easter is only the correct translation of Pascha if it refers to the New Covenant Pascha of the Christians and not the Old Covenant Passover of the Jews. Acts 12: 4 is talking about Herod pleasing the Jews in Judea, so it probably is referring to the Old Covenant Passover of the Jews, and therefore it is my personal opinion that Easter is not correct here. Most Bible translations do not say “Easter”.

Does Easter distract from Jesus' suffering and death by focusing on the resurrection?

No. (Yes, this is a legitimate question we have had to address in the past.) Easter isn't an island unto itself. Christians start with 40 days of fasting and prayer for Lent. Then, Easter is the end of Holy Week, which pictures everything from the Triumphal Entry to the Last Supper to the crucifixion to the resurrection. But wait, there's more! Then, Eastertide continues to Pentecost, which pictures the gift of the Holy Spirit given directly to mankind. There is no skipping or minimizing of anything here. This question comes from someone who doesn't understand the scale of Easter. The United Church of God thinks only focusing on Israel's Exodus, with an undercurrent of suffering and death on Passover night, then moving directly on to avoiding leavening for the Days of Unleavened Bread, is more inclusive? We disagree.
We ask, what is the death without the resurrection? Anyone can suffer and die. Mankind has been doing that since Eden. But only God can bring Himself back!

For more, see our article "The Matzo or the Egg?"

Is "once pagan always pagan" a valid Biblical position to take?

Unlikely. God Himself used many things that were previously pagan in order to teach us about Him. Temples, a "holy of holies", priests, days of rest, feast days, harvest festivals, circumcision, alters, sacrifices, arks (ie. Ark of the Covenant), a mercy seat, prayers, music, incense, sacred documents, tithes, and many more things were all of pagan employ long before Moses wrote the Torah. Why the very Ark of the Covenant itself is patterned directly from the Egyptian palanquin. The Spirit of God was carried around for years on an Ark patterned directly after an Egyptian religious box. Did you know Hebrew originally had no vowels? Other languages had vowels. Are vowels pagan? Spacing between words and left-to-right orientation are both of pagan origin. There are a great many other things I could list here, but I will spare you. We can see that "once pagan always pagan" is neither practical nor Biblical. The phrase isn't in there; the implication isn't in there. Now consider the many inane claims that even Jesus himself came from pagan myths and you will see that pagan similarities do exist, and that some people are more than willing to take this line of thinking to a wild extreme in order to justify themselves.
Paul directly addressed the idea of 'once pagan always pagan'. People were worried meat offered to idols was still pagan and would contaminate them. Paul said no. 
(I COR. 10: 25-28) 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience’ sake; 26 for “the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness.” 27 If any of those who do not believe invites you to dinner, and you desire to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no question for conscience’ sake.   
It was only when the meat was still being used in a pagan capacity that Paul said to avoid it. 
(I COR. 10: 28) 28 But if anyone says to you, “This was offered to idols,” do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience’ sake; for “the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness.”
So we are left with some choices: 1) throw out the entire day because of a handful of incidentals, 2) enjoy the day but abstain from the particular traditions that make us uncomfortable, 3) enjoy the day and all of the traditions in their new, redeemed meanings.

Some people know Easter decorations are nothing, while others are terribly afraid of these things defiling their conscience. Neither group is condemned by Paul, but both are commanded to live in peace and patience with one another. Paul goes through it again in I Corinthians 10: 23-33, and again in Romans 14: 5-13. Therefore, it is crystal clear that calling people "pagan" or "Nimrod worshipers" or whatever epithet is thrown around - from either side - is against the law of love and contrary to the Bible both in word and in Spirit.

See our article "Superstitions Be Gone!" for more.

Does renaming Pascha make it pagan?

No. This question refers to renaming Pascha to Easter. It should be clearly stated that it was German Christians who renamed their feast after the month in which it fell, not German pagans. Even if we would grant for sake of argument that the names of the months were pagan, it does not follow that what the Christians did in renaming their feasts after the months makes them pagan. The Christians in Germany were simply doing what their culture did. If our standard is really going to be changing names makes things pagan, then we need to hold to that standard. Phrases like "Saturday is the Sabbath" or "14th of Nissan" makes these practices pagan. If you're going to have a standard, then have a standard. Taken to its logical end means we all need to stop speaking altogether.

Do Sunday sunrise services prove Easter is from paganism?

No. Sunrise services were part and parcel of the Christian tradition from the beginning. Pliny the Younger writes to the emperor Trajan in A.D. 110 and reports, 
“...[the Christians] were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god.”
-Pliny, Letters, book 10, letter 96 
This report was not specific to Easter, but to regular, weekly church services. Note that the year - it is quite early. I also find it curious that Pliny specified this was on a fixed day. This hints that it was irregular as compared to normal pagan Roman worship practices.
It was only natural for Christians to worship early for Easter, since our Lord was first discovered to be resurrected again to life early in the morning. 
  (MAT. 28: 1) Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn...
  (MAR. 16: 2) Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week...
  (LUK. 24: 1) Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning...
Sunday worship was a sort of weekly Easter, of sorts, complete with eucharistic meal which pictured the Last Supper. Because of the time our Lord was discovered to be resurrected, the Christians chose to worship early every week. This is confirmed by Justin Martyr, who wrote somewhere between 155-157 AD:
"But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration."
-Justin Martyr, "First Apology", chapter 67.
There was quite a bit more to Easter than sunrise services. The entire day before Easter was a fast day. On Saturday night they held a vigil, with candles and lights, until midnight. Tradition held that Jesus was resurrected at midnight, so the vigil was a reenactment of waiting for that time. (For a good explanation, see William Smith's "Dictionary of Christian Antiquities", volume I, in the section Easter Ceremonies, starting on page 595.)

Are Easter sunrise services condemned in Ezekiel 8: 16?

No. This is a breathtakingly and willfully erroneous misreading of the text and intent of both the Bible and modern Christianity.
Here is one example from a booklet about Easter written by Herbert Armstrong, in a section called "Sunrise Services":
"You think Easter sunrise services are beautiful? Listen! God was showing the Prophet Ezekiel the sins of His people in a vision — a prophecy for today! ... It is the identical thing millions are doing every Easter Sunday morning—the sunrise service—standing with their faces toward the east, as the sun is rising, in a service of worship which honors the sun god and his mythical idolatrous consort, goddess Easter. Yes, deceived into believing this is Christian, millions practice every Easter the identical form of the ancient sun worship of the sun god Baal!"
-Herbert Armstrong, "The Plain Truth About Easter", 1973, p.11
Is that accurate? Let's look.
Ezekiel 8 tells of a vision Ezekiel had where God takes Ezekiel to show him the temple in Jerusalem. First he shows Ezekiel public idolatry, then secret idolatry, then weeping for Tammuz. Finally, verse 16 says this, 
"So He brought me into the inner court of the Lord’s house; and there, at the door of the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs toward the temple of the Lord and their faces toward the east, and they were worshiping the sun toward the east." (EZE. 8: 16)
We need to focus on context, context, context.
Ezekiel 2: 3 tells us God sent Ezekiel to be a prophet to Israel. That calling is seen throughout the book. Ezekiel 8: 17 tells us the visions of idolatry were for Judah. This only makes sense, as the visions were of the Temple in Jerusalem. Chapter 9 reiterates the visions was for Israel and Judah, however the punishment was isolated to Jerusalem. This episode leads to the Holy Spirit leaving the temple in chapter 10.
So, now we know the context.
Some people see the sun worship in chapter 8 verse 16, and they conclude this is the same as, or directly speaking of, Easter sunrise service. But, is that what the Bible says? No. Does the Bible say this is a prophecy for today? No. Does the Bible say this is a prophecy at all? No. Do Christians turn their backs to the Temple on Easter? No. Do Christians face the sun on Easter? No. Do Christians worship Baal? No. Does Ezekiel 18 mention Baal? No. Is Baal a sun god? No, Baal was a storm god. Did the sun god have a consort named Easter? No. Do Christians worship the sun at all? No. Is Easter particularly sun-focused? No. Is Easter identical to ancient sun worship? No. 
In fact, there is nothing whatsoever in common between Ezekiel's vision and Easter sunrise service except for the word 'sun'. That isn't anything at all to go on. As for the accusation of Lent being the weeping for Tammuz, we detail that elsewhere. In summary, the weeping for Tammuz happened on two days in an entirely different month than Easter. 
Armstrong was wrong on practically every single thing he said there.

Can I accidentally commit idolatry?

No. It is shocking how often we have been asked this over the years. It is impossible to accidentally commit idolatry. Idolatry cannot come from outside of you. Idolatry must come from inside, from the heart. Idolatry is not a thing or a thoughtless act (such as eating an egg or petting a bunny). Idolatry is an act of worship. Learn from the story of Naaman the Syrian who was healed of his leprosy by Elisha the prophet (II KIN. 5: 1-19). Naaman was obligated to kneel to the idol at the temple of Rimmon but his heart did not worship there (v. 18), and God pardoned him (v. 19).
My heart goes out to people who seriously ask questions such as this. The fear; the uncertainty in their Lord to love and keep them! False teachers have done this to people. But no incidental act is more powerful than God. No trinket can undo the victory Jesus gained on the cross. Listen to Him:

(JON. 10: 27-30) 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.

------- ------- -------
Thank you, dear truth-seeking reader, for staying with me through this. I hope this small FAQ has been of some help to you. I trust it has cleared up a few things. At the end of the day, if rabbits and eggs bother you, by all means leave them out. Concentrate on Christ! But don’t bear these Internet fables and foibles another step. Throw them in the garbage where they belong. I pray our Heavenly Father guide you ever more into His truth, which hinges and rests on the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Matzo or the Egg?

Material off-site from ABD
(We add to this list as we find new material we like. Just because something is on this list does not mean it was source material for this post.):

Babylon Connection” by Ralph Woodrow
Church History” by Eusebius on CCEL
Easter” article on NewAdvewnt Catholic Encyclopedia
"Easter, Ishtar, Eostre and Eggs" on History for Atheists
Eostre and Easter Customs” on Many Gods
"German Adjectival Suffix -henae" on University Lumier Lyon
Is Easter Pagan?” on Turris Fortis 
Is Easter Pagan?” by Jimmy Aiken video on YouTube 
"Ishtar Meme Debunked" on Armchair Theologian"
Teutonic Mythology” by Jakob Grimm on Google Books
The Lord’s Day Neither From Catholics Nor Pagans” by D.M. Canright  on Truth or Fables
The Modern Myth of the Easter Bunny” on Guardian UK
"The Passover Controversy" on Grace Communion International
The Reckoning Of Time” by the Venerable Bede on
"The Time of the Crucifixion and Resurrection" on Bibleperspectives
"Was Easter Borrowed From A Pagan Holiday?" on Christian History Today


Dillon said...

I couldn't agree with you more on that Tammuz's fest day was not in March or April. The weeping for Tammuz didn't last for forty days. The month of Tammuz in Old Testament times is roughly equivalent to our July. To the best evidence, that was when the Babylonian pagans, and the fallen Israelites mentioned in Ezekiel 8:14 would “weep for Tammuz”. Also, this weeping took place on the second day of that month, right after the new moon.

Anonymous said...

Isn't there a statue of a goddess hugging a bunny? I found a couple of these on the internet.

xHWA said...

Dillon, I can't tell you how many people I've seen lately who have been claiming that Lent is the weeping for Tammuz. It's really total nonsense, and demonstrably untrue, but they don't seem to care.
It's emotional. Logic and reason will not sway an emotional issue like that.

xHWA said...

Anonymous April 12,
Welcome! Thank you for commenting here.

I know that there are many paintings and etc of Eostre/Ostara, but they all recent. If they are recent then they can't quite be used as evidence of anything ancient.
For example, one can't use a statue from the 1800's to prove something predated the 700's.

I am not unaware of any such ancient statue. If you could get me a link or something I'll gladly check them out.

Dillon said...

Yes there are countless websites all claiming that Tammuz was wept for, for forty days. HWA took Hislop's work and embellished it and created another story out of thin air. Lent was celebrated for as long as Christians wanted to in the early church.
There are artworks of Eostre but only as referenced by Wiccans and other modern pagans.

Anonymous said...

Isn't adopting pagan customs, the Nicolatian hypocrisy?

xHWA said...

Short answer: no.

Long answer: No one exactly knows, but looking at what we do know does not support "adopting pagan customs" as Nicolaitanism.

You can read every Bible commentary and they will each say something a little different.

Irenaeus, Eusebius and others claimed there was a bishop named Nicolas and he taught sexual freedom and idolatry.
Clement of Alexandria says Nicolas was a chaste man and jealous husband, and he didn't actually teach fornication or idolatry, but his words were abused by his followers.

Several sources confirm this and add Gnosticism to the mix.

Some commentaries try to tie Nicolaitanism to overbearing church leadership. I'm not an advocate of controlling leadership, but I've got to say there's almost no reason to agree with this position.

Most people say Nicolaitans is really just the same thing as Balaam. The sin is the same.

In the end, it's pretty inconclusive. But adopting pagan customs does not appear to be one of the options.

OrthodoxApologia92 said...

The so called goddess hugging a bunny is actually Ix Chel the rainbow goddess with the rabbit. Rabbits have been synonymous with the moon in various cultures. It is dated during the time AFTER Nicea.

xHWA said...



I'm going to LOL! at your comment, because I'm going on the assumption that you're being facetious, and I think it's absolutely hilarious. Very well done! I really needed that laugh today.

(If you were somehow being serious, I don't mean to offend.)

OrthodoxApologia92 said...

I was being both serious (from a Chronological perspective on the dating of Pascha) and mocking towards Armstrongists. Ishtar symbols are lions and an eight pointed star. Bunnies and eggs are not one of them, but if the Armstrongist wanted to assert that we should not use eggs because they are used during this time of year by pagans, then someone had better tell the Jews to remove the beitzah from their Seder.

OrthodoxApologia92 said...

I'm assuming you know the book "Too long in the sun" by Richard Rives. I noticed one thing in both Babylonian and Egyptian mythology, they use the concept of crop cycle. For example when Tammuz dies in summer, the plants start to wither away then you have autumn. It's like Ceres and Persephone, when Persephone is abducted, plants and flowers stopped growing and winter came.

xHWA said...

I'm no fan of Richard Rives. pushes his material pretty hard which may bring him some popularity, but not from me.

Thing is, he basically took Hislop's material and warmed it up. I'm not saying he plagiarized it necessarily, but when I watched his videos it was precisely the same style and mindset and claims as Hislop. They both use the same non-research. They both use the same sweeping generalities and hasty conclusions. They both make definite claims of truth from the barest minimum of evidence. They both twist facts and seemingly could care less if they are wrong.

Richard Rives, Alexander Hislop, and to a lesser degree Chuck Missler are all on my "avoid" list.

xHWA said...

Absolutely true on the crop cycle. The crop cycle and such natural events (like, say, the flooding of the Nile) were very much linked with the myths.