Monday, March 17, 2014

Easter vs Passover

We are coming in to that time of year when we start seeing Easter bunnies and colorful eggs in baskets, and I ask my self what does any of it have to do with the death, burial and resurrection of Yeshua?  The answer is nothing!  So how does YHWH want us to remember His sacrifice?  I will attempt to answer this question in this article.

First, why do we call it Easter?  In the King James Version the word is used one time.

Acts 12:4 And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.

Sadly this is a miss translation.  The Greek word being translated Easter is Pascha, Strongs number G3956 which comes from the Hebrew Pesakh which is properly translated as Passover.  So the text should read when properly translated

Acts 12:4 And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep; intending after Passover to bring him forth to the people.

So the only place in all of Scripture that mentions Easter is a miss translation.  So if the term is not Biblical then where did it come from?  The Church scholar Bede (A.D. 673-735) had this to say

"Eosturmanath has a name which is now translated " Paschal month," and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour 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-honoured name of the old observance."
                       Bede: The Reckoning of Time, trans. Faith Wallis, vol. 29, Translated Texts for Historians(Liverpool: Liverpool Univ. Press, 1999) p. 54.

Here Bede is saying that some Christians started calling Pesakh/Pascha/Passover by the name Eostre a pagan goddess.  This is confirmed by Jacob Grimm

"The two goddesses, whom Bede (De temporum ratione cap. 13) cites very briefly, without any description, merely to explain the months named after them, are Hrede and Eastre, March taking its Saxon name from the first, and April from the second. It would be uncritical to saddle this father of the church, who everywhere keeps heathenism at a distance, and tells us less of it than he knows, with the invention of these goddesses.

We Germans to this day call April ostermonat, and ostarmanoth is found as early as Eginhart [c. 800] ([contemporary of Charlemagne]). The great christian festival, which usually falls in April or the end of March, bears in the plural, because two days (ostartaga, aostortaga, Diut. 1, 266) were kept at Easter. This Ostra, like the [Anglo Saxon] eastre, must in the heathen religion have denoted a higher being, whose worship was so firmly rooted, that the christian teachers tolerated the nam, and applied it to one of their own grandest anniversaries. all the nations bordering on us have retained the Biblical "pascha;" even Ulphilas writes paska, not austro, though he must have known the world; the Norsetongue also has imported its paskir, Swed[ish] pask, Dan[ish] paaske. The [Old High German] adv.ostar expresses movement toward the rising sun (Gramm. 3, 205), likewise the [Old Norse]austr, and probably an [Anglo Saxon] eastor and Goth[ic] austr.
                                                        Jacob Grimm, Teutonic Mythology, vol. 1, 4th ed., trans. James Steven Stallybrass (George Bell and Sons, 1882), pp. 289-291.

So it was the German Christians that first started calling Pesakh/Pascha/Passover by the name of Eostre/Ostra/Eastre but all the nations around Germany continued with the Biblical tradition of calling it Pesakh/Pascha/Passover.

"originally a Saxon word (Eostre), denoting a goddess of the Saxons, in honour of whom sacrifices were offered about the time of the Passover. Hence the name came to be given to the festival ot the Resurrection of Christ, which occured at the time of the Passover. In the early English versions this word was frequently used as the translation of the Greek pascha (the Passover). When the Authorized Version (1611) was formed, the word "passover" was used in all passages in which this word pascha occurred, except  in Acts 12:4, In the Revised Version the proper word, "passover," is always used."
                                  Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary under Easter 

There you have it, Easter is the name of a pagan goddess that German and then English speaking Christians used to replace the Biblical term of Pesakh/Pascha/Passover.  This is horrible for two reasons.  One, it is mixing pagan practices with the worship of YHWH. Just like Yisrael did with the golden calf.  And two, it has caused people to think that the Scriptural feast of Passover has been done away with and replaced by Easter.  When in reality before the Christianization of the Germanic tribes, all Christians celebrated and called it Pesakh/Pascha/Passover.  That is why I call it Pesakh(Hebrew), Pascha(Greek) or Passover.  This can be confusing to some people because when they read the Early Church Fathers writings (most of which wrote in Greek and Latin) Pascha gets translated as Easter in English versions instead of the more correct Passover Just like in Acts 12:4.  So remember whenever you see "Easter" in the Early Church writings it is in reality Pascha/Passover.

Now there were arguments as to when to celebrate Pesakh but everyone believed that it should be kept. Even today the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches disagree on when to keep Pascha.  Also, many people today will be surprised to find out that in the first century Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes and Samaritans could not agree on when to keep Pesakh.  Even today the Rabbinic and Karaite Jews do not agree on when to keep Pesakh!  I do not want to get into all of the different arguments on when to celebrate Pesakh, which would take quite some time.  Maybe in another article.  However, I do recommend that everyone read all the arguments and study for themselves when to celebrate Pesakh.  I do want to compare the overall Jewish approach for determining the Pesakh to the overall Christian approach for determining the Pesakh. But first lets see what the Scriptures say about when to celebrate Pesakh.

Vayikrah(Leviticus)23:5 In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Pesakh of YHWH.

It is clear that this passage says that the Pesakh is on the 14th day of the 1st Hebrew month of the year. What is not so clear is which month is the 1st month and which day is the 14th day of that month.  This is why there were and still are disagreements among the Jewish sects.  You see a lot of the Jewish sects had their own distinct calendars.  Most were luni-solar in nature with the exception of the Essenes which used a completely solar calendar, but all disagreed in some way or another.  However, they all believed that they were keeping Pesakh on the 14th day of the 1st month of the Biblical calendar.  Sadly the Christian approach has been to ignore this verse completely.  Why do they ignore it?  Let's find out with this quote from Emperor Constantine:

When the question relative to the sacred festival of Easter arose, it was universally thought that it would be convenient that all should keep the feast on one day; for that could be more beautiful and more desirable, and more desirable, than to see this festival, through which we receive the hope of immortality, celebrated by all with one accord, and in the same manner? It was declared to be particularly unworthy for this, the holiest of all festivals, to follow the custom [the calculation] of the Jews, who had soiled their hands with the most fearful of crimes, and whose minds were blinded....We ought not, therefore, to have anything in common with the Jews, for the Saviour has shown us another way....As, on the one hand, it is our duty not to have anything in common with the murderers of our Lord.
                                               "On the Keeping of Easter," in Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, vol. 4, 2nd series, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), pp. 54.

Remember, whenever you see the word "Easter" in the above quote it is in reality the word "Pascha", it has just been miss translated as "Easter".  There it is, the reason why Christians today do not keep Pesakh on the 14th day of the 1st month of the Biblical calendar is because of antisemitism.  They were not going to do it that way because that was the way the Jews did it.  Apparently they believed that Yeshua being raised from the dead on a Sunday not only changed the Shabbat from Saturday to Sunday but that it also changed Pascha from 14th day of the 1st month of the Biblical calendar to the first Sunday after the full moon on or after the vernal equinox.  Of course there is nowhere in the Scriptures that says the day of Pesakh was changed. In fact Yekhezkel(Ezekiel) tells us when we will be keeping Pesakh during the thousand year reign of Yeshua.

Yekhezkel(Ezekiel)45:21 In the first month, in the fourteenth day of the month, ye shall have the Pesakh, a feast of seven days; unleavened bread shall be eaten.

So the obvious question is, why would we keep Pascha on the 14th day of the 1st month during the thousand year reign of Yeshua, if it was changed to some other day by His death?  I believe the answer is that Pesakh was not changed by His death at all.  This would mean that all the people that celebrate Pascha according to the Roman Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox Churches calendars are keeping Pascha on the wrong days.  Believe it or not but there was a group of early believers in Yeshua who agree with me.  They were called Quartodecimans.  It means fourteener.  Meaning that they followed the Biblical practice of keeping the Pascha on the 14th day of the 1st month of the Biblical calendar.  And these were not nobodies either.  As this quote from Bishop Polycrates shows.

“We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord’s coming, when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who fell asleep in Hierapolis; and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter, who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and, being a priest, wore the sacerdotal plate. He fell asleep at Ephesus. And Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, bishop and martyr from Eumenia, who fell asleep in Smyrna. Why need I mention the bishop and martyr Sagaris who fell asleep in Laodicea, or the blessed Papirius, or Melito, the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead? All these observed the fourteenth day of the Passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven. I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said ‘We ought to obey God rather than man.’”. He then writes of all the bishops who were present with him and thought as he did. His words are as follows: “I could mention the bishops who were present, whom I summoned at your desire; whose names, should I write them, would constitute a great multitude. And they, beholding my littleness, gave their consent to the letter, knowing that I did not bear my gray hairs in vain, but had always governed my life by the Master Yeshua.” Eusebius of Caesarea Historia Ecclesiastica, 3. 24 

There you have it!  I'm going to do my best to do what these men of Faith did and keep Pascha on the 14th day of the 1st month of the Biblical calendar.  Instead of keeping Pascha on a different day just so I can be different from the Jews.  What a Pathetic reason for discarding the Biblical date of Pascha!  I encourage everyone reading this to study the Quartodeciman controversy and try to determine for themselves when they should celebrate Pascha instead of just doing what everyone else does.


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