Easter and Christmas rank as the two most popular festivals in Christendom. As tradition would have us believe, they both honour our Lord Jesus Christ—one supposedly marking His birth, the other commemorating His death and resurrection.
But so far, that’s what ‘tradition’ says, not what the Bible or history teaches. If the facts be told, they are both rooted in ancient paganism.
Of course, Christmas has, over the years, attracted criticism for its downright pagan and worldly character, emphasizing pleasure over spirituality.
But not so with Easter. It projects a solemnity that somehow masks its pagan elements. And with a solitary mention in the Book of Acts (KJV), the plot only thickens—its pagan origins become even more obscure.
Yet not so obscure as to render the light of Biblical truth impenetrable! Once the light of God’s Word is beamed on Easter, its pagan background and customs are revealed in the raw. Its very name gives it away, being derived from Eostre, a Teutonic (German) goddess of spring (“Easter”, World Book Encyclopedia, 1974 ed. Vol. 6, p. 25).
But it turns out the name goes even further back in the history of paganism. Writing in his The Two Babylons, Rev. Alexander Hislop asserts that far from being Christian in origin, Easter “bears its Chaldean [Babylonian] origin on its very forehead.” In what way? Easter is actually a corruption of Astarte, the Babylonian queen of heaven, pronounced by the people of Nineveh as Ishtar. And from her came the now familiar religious solemnities of April, previously called Easter-monath in Britain (The Two Babylons, pp. 103-104).
Not surprisingly, the World Book Encyclopedia reports: “Many of the customs connected with the Easter season come from pagan spring festivals.” These include the burning of bonfires, originally bones fire connected with human sacrifices; the practice of colouring eggs, traceable to pagan rites in honour of Astarte who according to pagan legend was hatched out of a giant egg which fell from heaven into the river Euphrates. The same goes for the Easter hot cross buns—the equivalent of the “cakes to the queen of heaven” for which the Lord reprimanded apostate Judah in Jer. 7:18. Next is the Easter bunny (rabbit), long used by pagans to symbolize birth and new life.
The sad, hard fact: Paganism, ‘refined’ and repackaged, has been smuggled into the church and in the name of Christianity’s most important event—the death and resurrection of Christ.
Though Acts 12:4 does mention Easter (and no other place in the Bible), the context clearly shows it was a reference to the Passover, being the days of unleavened bread (verse 3). Note, the days of unleavened bread, in which the Lord commanded Israel not to eat leavened bread for seven days, always preceded and indeed led up to the Passover (Ex. 12:14-16).
Almost all Bible scholars agree that the translators of the King James Version erred in rendering the Biblical feast of Passover “Easter”. Ignorance could have played its part, but the probable reason was that because Easter with all its pagan customs was already being observed at the time of the translation, the translators could not resist the temptation to insert Easter in place of Passover.
Significantly, most of the later English versions of the Bible, after the KJV, have the correct word Passover in Acts 12:4, instead of Easter.
Meanwhile, Lent, the 40-day fast preceding Easter, is conspicuously missing from all scripture. Some attempt has been made to link it to Jesus’ 40-day fast in the wilderness, but then there’s no hiding its pagan antecedents. In ancient times, it was observed in commemoration of the ‘death and resurrection’ of Tammuz, “which was celebrated by alternate weeping and rejoicing” (The Two Babylons, p. 105; see also Ezekiel 8:14).
Substituting Jesus for Tammuz, the apostate church adopted the 40-day fast—all to please its new converts from paganism—and renamed it Lent. About the year 519 AD, the Council of Aurelia presided over by Hormidas, Bishop of Rome, decreed that Lent should be solemnly kept before Easter.
Still, the unmasking of Easter will not be complete without exploding one more fallacy—the Good Friday tradition. In Matt. 12:38-40, the only sign Christ personally gave of His Messiaship was ‘the sign of Jonah:’ Three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (grave).
The fallacy of the Good Friday crucifixion and Easter Sunday resurrection lies in the fact that the supposed death of Christ on Friday and resurrection on Sunday morning do not make up three days and three nights (being 12 hours each – John 11:9), making a total of 72 hours, but rather one day, two nights. Remember, when the women went to the sepulchre (graveyard) early Sunday morning, “while it was yet dark”, Christ had already resurrected; they were not eye-witnesses to the resurrection (Matt. 28:1; John 20:1).
Within which time-frame then did Christ’s death and resurrection occur? He was “cut off in the midst of the week” (Wednesday), invalidating all animal sacrifices by His perfect atonement (Daniel 9:27), and resurrected—72 hours later—late Sabbath (Saturday). (For a fuller understanding of this vital truth, write for our tract, The Resurrection, When?).
Three days and three nights in the grave is the only sign Christ personally gave of His Messiaship, but the Good Friday tradition has over the years served to undermine this very sign and in effect “speak against it” as the prophet Simeon prophesied in Luke 2:34.
When we stray from Biblical truth, we become easy prey to satanic deception which inevitably leads us to the pagan observances of days, months and times from which we had been rescued (Gal.4:8-10).
However, God’s truth endures to set us free forever. We do not please God or the Lord Jesus Christ by observing ‘spiritualized’ pagan festivals in ‘their honour.’ He has stated clearly in His Word that if we love Him we should keep His commandments (John 14:15; 1 John 5:3), not the commandments of men such as Easter with a pagan background to boot (Matt. 15:9).
The greatest honour we can do the Lord Jesus—indeed the greatest commemoration we can enact for Him to make His death of lasting value to us—is to cease from sin and keep His commandments. The keeping of His commandments is paramount (1 Cor. 7:19).
Only if we do His will shall we receive the crown of righteousness, even the crown of life, at His glorious appearing (Matt. 7:21; Rev.22:14; 2 Tim. 4:6-8; James 1:12). This is the mark towards which we must press and not involve ourselves in vain observances which lead us not to Christ, but away from Him. The WORD still screams aloud: “Flee from idolatry!” (1Cor. 10:14).