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What should be the attitude of Christians toward Easter?

by Robert Randle  
4/26/2011 / Devotionals

According to The Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th edition, Micropaedia, p. 333, "Easter" is associated with pagan spring fertility rites and it was later incorporated into Western Christianity as a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Francis Weiser, professor of Philosophy at Boston College states that the Easter egg had its origins among the Indo-European races and the Easter bunny or rabbit was used because of its ability to be quite fertile (Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, 1958, pp. 233, 236). In Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, the term "Easter" is a another form of one of the titles for "Astarte, the Chaldean goddess and Queen of Heaven (Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, 1958, pp. 233, 236). The Babylonian and Assyrian fertility goddess Ishtar, from which derives the name Astarte or Ashtoreth, who is likely the Anglo-Saxon or Germanic Ostara, and using the word 'east' gives the origin of the word "Easter." Ishtar was associated with Tammuz, mentioned in Ezekiel 8: 14 is a vegetation god of both divine and mortal origin who died and rose from the dead every year; representing the annual decay and revival of life.

Pagans have always got excited about spring, because they saw the sun increasing in power, animals mating, and plant life reviving. They exalted animal and human fertility, reproduction, and sexual love. Goddesses of love and fertility were worshipped with spring festivals and gross immorality. Eusebius, one of the renowned Church Fathers, writes that earliest Christians celebrated the Lord's Passover [Supper] at the same time as the Jews, during the night of the first full moon of the first month of spring [Nisan/April 14-15]. By the middle of the 2nd Century, most Churches had transferred this celebration to the Sunday after the Jewish feast.

Certain churches of Asia Minor clung to the older custom but after the first Ecumenical Council of Nicea in 325 decreed that all churches should observe the feast together on a Sunday (The Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th edition, Micropaedia, Vol. 4, pp. 604-605, "Church Year"). In an attempt to draw more pagan worshippers into the Christian faith, The Roman Catholic Church, seeking to "Christianize" the pagans, gave new names and meanings to the old pagan festivals to keep their unregenerate members happy. Church leaders gradually replaced Passover with the religion of the pagan mystery religion with an emphasis on the death and resurrection of Tammuz [Adonis/Attis throughout the Roman Empire] to that of Jesus Christ.

The date for Easter is always hard to figure out, so you have to turn to a calendar to see which Sunday it falls on for a given year. There is a simple reason for this confusion. The pagans observed festivals at the vernal equinox, which was and is considered the first day of spring, when the length of the day and the length of the night are equal, as the sun climbs in the sky of the northern hemisphere. In 325 A.D., Emperor Constantine of the Roman Empire, presiding over the large church council at Nicea, set the date as the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox.

One could go into more detail about the historical origin of this holiday but it is important to search the Scriptures and learn what God thinks about this and other pagan customs.

2 Kings 23: 5
Then he [King Josiah] removed the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense on the high places in the cities of Judah and in the places all around Jerusalem, and those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun, to the moon, to the constellations, and to all the host of heaven.

Jeremiah 10:2-3a Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen... For the customs of the people are vain.

Deuteronomy 14: 2
For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a [peculiar] people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.

Titus 2: 13-14
Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special [peculiar] people, zealous for good works.

1 Peter 2: 9
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special [peculiar] people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

Romans 12: 2
And do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

2 Thessalonians 2: 15
Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.

2 Timothy 3: 14, 16-17
But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable foe doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Jude 3
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

Proverbs 16: 25
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.

COMMENT: Encyclopedia International (1978) declares, "Many of the customs associated with Easter are derived from various spring fertility rites of the pagan religions which Christianity supplanted." The Catholic Encyclopedia declares, "A great many pagan customs celebrating the return of spring gravitated to Easter." Encyclopedia Britannica states, "Christianity ... incorporated in its celebrations of the great Christian feast day many of the heathen rites and customs of the spring festival." Compton's Encyclopedia (1978) declares, "Some Easter customs have come from this and other pre-Christian spring festivals." Why are children taught that Peter Cottontail has a basket of eggs? Do rabbits lay eggs? Of course not! Rabbits are an obvious symbol of fertility and reproduction, for they are known for their short gestation and large litters. The Catholic Encyclopedia reads, "The rabbit is a pagan symbol and has always been an emblem of fertility."

Encyclopedia International (1978) reads, "The Easter rabbit, legendary producer of Easter eggs, was also a symbol of fertility and new life." Encyclopedia Britannica reads, "The Easter hare came to Christianity from antiquity. The hare is associated with the moon in the legends of ancient Egypt and other peoples. Through the fact that the Egyptian word for hare, um, means also 'open' and 'period', the hare came to be associated with the idea of periodicity, both lunar and human, and with the beginning of new life in both the young man and young woman, and so a symbol of fertility and of the renewal of life."

Regarding Easter eggs, Encyclopedia Britannica states, "The egg as a symbol of fertility and of renewal of life goes back to the ancient Egyptians and Persians, who had also the custom of coloring and eating eggs during their spring festival." The New Book of Knowledge (1978) declares, "One of the best-known Easter symbols is the egg, which has symbolized renewed life since ancient days. The egg is said to be a symbol of life because in all living creatures life begins in the egg." Encyclopedia International (1978) states, "Eggs were a primitive symbol of fertility; but Christians saw in them a symbol of the tomb from which Christ rose, and continued the practice of coloring, giving, and eating them on Easter."

Although there are a few Christian denominations that do not celebrate Easter or any other Church holidays, such as Jehovah Witnesses, Quakers [Friends Church] and Worldwide Church of God [Armstrong-"Easter"] are criticized by other believers for their resistance to such customs but is their stance on this issue of faith not all that unreasonable? The one thing about this tradition is that it involves children for the most part, with Easter egg hunts, candy and all the other festive activities. Although it is quite pleasing to hear the sounds of laughter and see the smiles and frivolity shared by the youth but what message is being sent? Is this truly a non-issue that does not even require a second thought or is the matter important enough to merit prayer and serious study because it could involve one's eternal destiny?

Robert Randle
776 Commerce St. #B-11
Tacoma, WA 98402
April 10, 2011

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