Is Easter Biblical?
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?