SODOM & GOMORRAH: With Easter fast approaching, more and more people are revisiting the holiday to understand its meaning and relationship to the Christian faith. But the only way to understand the true meaning of Easter is to examine both the Bible and history.
The Real Meaning of Easter
A search for the real meaning of Easter will usually yield articles and commentary reminding Christians that the holiday is supposed to represent the resurrection of Jesus Christ and does not have to do with chickens and bunnies. These elements, it is argued, are secondary to honoring Christ’s victory over the cross.
The thesis of this article argues the contrary: the real meaning of Easter has everything to do with eggs, bunnies, and chickens. The holiday that actually marks Christ’s resurrection is generally forgotten and, what’s more, usually doesn’t even fall on the same day as Easter. The first portion of this article examines the pagan roots of Easter traditions. We examine the name of the holiday itself, the Easter bunny, and the history of Easter eggs. In the second part of the article, we look at Bible verses about Easter and how Christians today not only usually ignore the resurrection of Christ but also celebrate a holiday that God has forbidden in the Bible.
Easter traditions are quite varied depending on what part of the world you live in and what (if any) church you attend.
In the Christian tradition, the 40 days prior to Easter are called Lent. Believers are supposed to engage in a period of fasting, repentance, and prayer. The week immediately preceding Easter is known as Holy Week with Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday commemorating the Last Supper. Good Friday marks the day which, according to the Christian Easter traditions, Jesus was crucified. Easter Sunday is supposed to be the day Christ resurrected and Easter is followed by a 50 day period called the Easter Season or Eastertide which ends with Petecost Sunday which is the date that Christ was said to have returned to heaven.
Setting aside the issue of days, which we shall return to later, the name of the holiday itself is problematic. The word “Easter” comes to us from the Old English Easterdaeg, which itself descends from the Proto-Germanic term Austron. Austron was a goddess of fertility and the spring, and her name is formed from a root meaning “to shine”, especially at dawn. The pagan feast of Easter was celebrated at roughly the Spring Equinox to honor and hope for fertility and growth in the coming year.
Easter Bunny Origins
The symbol of the rabbit became associated with the traditional Easter holiday around the middle of the 19th century, yet the associations and relationship to the fertility festival existed for many years. In ancient times, the rabbit was considered a hermaphrodite. It was said that the rabbit could reproduce without losing its virginity so the early church quickly connected it to the Virgin Mary.
Rabbits are ancient symbols of fertility since they give birth to large litters in the first few days of spring. As such, the easter bunny’s origins lay with the Spring Equinox celebration in honor of the fertility goddess.
History of Easter Eggs
Eggs are an obvious and old symbol of fertility which pre-date the Christian Easter traditions. The practice of dying eggshells has been around for thousands of years and was first put into service by Christians in Mesopotamia when they dyed the eggs red to represent the blood Christ shed on the cross.
Many Christian churches have formally adopted eggs into their Easter traditions. They say that the egg is shaped like a stone and is symbolic of the empty grave. The egg is also said to symbolize new life with the resurrection. Yet outside of Christianity it has seen wide use as a direct symbol for fertility. Ancient Zoroastrians painted eggs for a celebration which fell on the Spring Equinox.
Christian churches have made parallels between Christ’s resurrection and the eggs, making the history of Easter eggs intertwined with that of the traditional acknowledgement of the Christian event. But they have no direct connection to the event Christians are supposed to be celebrating and instead are related to a pagan fertility celebration.
Easter Bible Verses
There is but one verse in the Bible where the word “Easter” is used. This is in Acts 12:4 where it reads “And when he had apprehended him [Peter], he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. In verse 3 we are told that this occurred within “the days of unleavened bread” which is Passover.
In Greek, this word “Easter” is pascha. The Strong’s Concordance gives four definitions:
“1) The paschal sacrifice (which was accustomed to be offered for the people’s deliverance of old from Egypt)”
“2) the paschal lamb, i.e. the lamb the Israelites were accustomed to slay and eat on the fourteenth day of the month of Nisan (the first month of their year) in memory of the day on which their fathers, preparing to depart from Egypt, were bidden by God to slay and eat a lamb, and to sprinkle their door posts with its blood, that the destroying angel, seeing the blood, might pass over their dwellings; Christ crucified is likened to the slain paschal lamb”
“3) the paschal supper”
“4) the paschal feast, the feast of the Passover, extending from the 14th to the 20th day of the month Nisan”
Elsewhere this is translated as “Passover”. What is interesting, and perhaps critical to note, is that 1 Corinthians 5:7 states that we should “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” Christ became the Passover lamb that was slain to mark our deliverance from bondage.
Matthew 26:2, Mark 14:1, and John 19:14 all document that Christ was crucified during the Passover holiday. We of course recall the choice the crowd was given to free one of the prisoners for Passover, either Christ or Barabbas.
Passover itself is 14 days after the Spring Equinox. We see in Exodus 12:2 that the first month of the old calendar is Abib, which begins on the Spring Equinox. In Deuteronomy 16:1 it states that the “in the month of Abib the Lord thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night.” We see also in Number 9:4-5 that the children of Israel were commanded to keep the Passover on the 14th day of the first month, which is 14 days after the Spring Equinox.
In 2013, the Spring Equinox was on March 20. 14 days later, on April 3 marks the beginning of the Christian Passover.
So what we have is a celebration of a pagan fertility holiday on a date other than the actual date of the Christian Passover.
What is more uncomfortable for us is the fact that Passover is a High Sabbath day, which makes it holier than the normal Sabbath. Christ became the Sabbath for the faithful (Hebrews 4:8, Colossians 2:16-17) and so his resurrection marks a High Sabbath in Christianity.
The servants of God are commanded to “keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant” (Isaiah 56:6). And those who do not honor the sabbath (Jeremiah 17:27) are destroyed.