Is Easter Bi­b­li­cal?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By F. Jaco Viljoen

Aboy leaps out of bed, filled with ex­cite­ment. To­day will be a spe­cial day for him and his fam­ily. He bounds down the stairs and dis­cov­ers a reed bas­ket filled with beau­ti­fully painted eggs and choco­late rab­bits. He can­not wait to dive into the good­ies! His an­tic­i­pa­tion grows as he thinks of the fun he will have. Lent, a 40-day pe­riod dur­ing which wor­ship­pers try to em­u­late Christ’s suf­fer­ing by fast­ing and ab­stain­ing from cer­tain plea­sures, is fi­nally over—and Easter Sun­day is here!

As he tears the wrap­per off an egg-shaped choco­late treat, his mother ex­plains to him the sig­nif­i­cance of the day: “Son, on Fri­day we com­mem­o­rated the cru­ci­fix­ion and death of our Sav­ior, so to­day—Easter Sun­day—we cel­e­brate His res­ur­rec­tion.”

For mil­lions around the globe, this nar­ra­tive is typ­i­cal of their own Easter cel­e­bra­tions. Jerusalem, where the most well-known Easter cel­e­bra­tions take place, is jam-packed with wor­ship­pers from all over the world. Along the fa­mous cob­bled Via Dolorosa—“Way of Suf­fer­ing”—thou­sands of parish­ioners walk the path Christ is be­lieved to have taken on His way to Gol­go­tha. To them, and mil­lions of like­minded pro­fess­ing Chris­tians, Easter is the prin­ci­pal feast of the li­tur­gi­cal year.

Else­where, United States troops in Iraq gather for an Easter sun­rise ser­vice. In Pe­shawar, Pak­istan, a group of de­vout women gath­ers around a pic­ture of “Je­sus” to re­flect on the sig­nif­i­cance of the day and give prayers of thanks­giv­ing. Far­ther east, thou­sands of South Korean Catholics at­tend ser­vices.

Later that evening, sev­eral Ger­man Chris­tians in Europe light a cus­tom­ary bon­fire to pro­tect them against the cold. Mean­while, dur­ing a tra­di­tional cer­e­mony in Bul­garia, priests bless painted red eggs, which sym­bol­ize spring. And sev­eral time zones away, an Ar­me­nian priest in New York City re­leases doves to il­lus­trate how the orig­i­nal 12 apos­tles were com­mis­sioned to “spread the gospel.”

Cer­tainly, long-held tra­di­tions such as Ash Wed­nes­day, Lent, Good Fri­day, sun­rise ser­vices, hot-cross buns, Easter eggs and rab­bits—which form the build­ing blocks upon which Easter is es­tab­lished—must have deep an­cient roots. If Easter tra­di­tions are all about the Christ of the Bi­ble, then they should be found within the pages of God’s Word. But are they?

While Acts 12:4 is the only time the word “Easter” is men­tioned in the King James trans­la­tion of the Bi­ble, the cus­toms of this hol­i­day ap­peared much ear­lier than the event of Christ’s res­ur­rec­tion. Amer­i­can nov­el­ist Henry James once wrote the fol­low­ing about tra­di­tions: “It takes an end­less amount of his­tory to make even a lit­tle tra­di­tion.”

Through­out the cen­turies, mil­lions of peo­ple have been per­suaded into be­liev­ing that Easter’s pur­pose is to honor Christ’s death and Res­ur­rec­tion. Yet this age-old global tra­di­tion can be traced back to thou­sands of years be­fore Je­sus was born.

“That God sac­ri­ficed his only Son for the sal­va­tion of the world… is so mys­ti­cal, so re­mote… yet the ex­tra­or­di­nary fact is that a sim­i­lar be­lief ranges all through the an­cient re­li­gions, and can be traced back to the ear­li­est times,” Ed­ward Car­pen­ter wrote in Pa­gan and Chris­tian Creeds. Easter cus­toms in­volv­ing the cel­e­bra­tion of death and res­ur­rec­tion orig­i­nate from pa­gan rites. In his book The Two Baby­lons, Alexander His­lop ex­plained, “Among the Pa­gans this Lent seems to have been an in­dis­pens­able pre­lim­i­nary to the great an­nual fes­ti­val in com­mem­o­ra­tion of the death and res­ur­rec­tion of Tam­muz, which was cel­e­brated by al­ter­nate weep­ing and re­joic­ing.”

The Bi­ble records in Ge­n­e­sis that Nim­rod, also known as Tam­muz or Baal, was the found­ing fa­ther and builder of Baby­lon. His mother-wife, Semi­ramis, also called Ishtar, was Baby­lon’s first queen. She was wor­shipped as a god­dess. Ash­toreth (Easter), Baal’s mother and wife ac­cord­ing to his­to­ri­ans, was con­sid­ered the “Great God­dess” through­out the an­cient world, in Greece, Ger­many, Baby­lon and Phoeni­cia. This gen­er­ally oc­curred in con­junc­tion with the wor­ship of Baal (El or Tam­muz).

In nearly all Semitic di­alects, “Ishtar” is pro­nounced “Easter.” Easter fes­tiv­i­ties ex­ten­sively re­fer to cel­e­brat­ing the per­son­age Ishtar, Ash­toreth and the “queen of heaven,” who has many in­ter­change­able names. Each year cit­i­zens in pa­gan na­tions cel­e­brated her son’s death and res­ur­rec­tion dur­ing spring.

Plainly, this fes­ti­val was ini­ti­ated long be­fore Christ walked the earth.

“The idea of Christ’s res­ur­rec­tion was in­jected into the old prac­tice of Easter ob­ser­vance and not the other way around” (Early Gen­tile Chris­tian­ity and its Hel­lenis­tic Back­ground). The Greek word trans­lated “Easter” in Acts 12:4 is pascha, and refers to Passover, which was al­ways kept on the 14th day of the He­brew month of Nisan (Abib).

It was Passover, not Easter, that God com­manded His peo­ple to ob­serve. Easter was a hu­man tra­di­tion that was never com­manded by the God of the Bi­ble. Easter has the power to con­vince peo­ple to be­lieve that this day is all about Christ—but when ex­posed, it shows that it has ev­ery­thing to do with a pa­gan de­ity. With the wrap­pings of Easter re­moved, it be­comes plain that any at­tempt to Chris­tian­ize the hol­i­day is in vain.

What is re­ally in­side the mys­te­ri­ous Easter Egg?

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