The Truth About Christmas & Easter
By John Aziza
Christmas and Easter were celebrated by pagans long before they were celebrated by Christians
Christmas: The ancient Romans celebrated Saturnalia on December 17 (Saturn's birthday) and culminated their celebrations on December 25th, the birthday of Mithras or Sol Invictus (the “Unconquered Sun”). December 25th marked the end of the winter solstice and the beginning of the sun's reemergence (see below citations).
Easter: Easter has nothing to do with Passover or the resurrection of Jesus. The name Easter is derived from the pagan deity of fertility known in various cultures as Ishtar, Astarte, Ashtoreth, Astara, or Ostara. Emperor Constantine, a sun worshiper, set the date for Easter as the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox. This means Easter may fall between March 22 and April 25. These dates were important to the ancient pagans who celebrated the time of year when they saw the sun increasing in brightness, animals reproducing, and plant life reviving. Instead of worshiping the Creator, they exalted animal and human fertility. The Roman Catholic Church is responsible for "Christianizing" these pagan celebrations and rebranding them with new names and themes so as to keep their pagan constituents happy.
Note: Scholarly citations are provided below for the above info.
We cannot find Christmas or Easter anywhere in the Bible
Christmas: Christians should celebrate that Jesus was born into this world to save men from sin EVERY DAY of the year, not just on the pagan holiday of Solstice Invictus. While the angels, shepherds, and wise men rejoiced when Jesus was born (Is. 9:6; Mat. 2:10), there is no scriptural command to commemorate Christ's day of birth once yearly. The desire to celebrate Christ's birth is rooted in the custom of the ancient Greeks and Romans who observed their birthdays every year with festive celebration. Since Jews did not have this custom, the Apostles (who were Jews) did not instruct the Church to observe Christ's day of birth. Neither is there any evidence that the Church celebrated Christ's day of birth until around 336 A.D., after the Roman Emperor Constantine made it a legal holiday (see below citations). But Christmas would not become a universal Christian celebration until the 9th century (see below citations).
Easter: Christ's resurrection is observed and commemorated in the Christian rite of baptism. We fervently believe in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. But we honor His resurrection by doing the two things the Bible commands: (1) We preach the gospel, which is the record of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:1-11), and (2) we baptize by immersion in water, which symbolizes His death, burial, and resurrection (Jn. 3:23; Act. 8:38-39; Rom. 6:3-5; 1 Cor. 15:29; Col. 2:12; 1 Pet. 3:21). Vatican Rome rejects baptism by immersion and has turned instead to paganism and superstition to come up with Lent, Good Friday, and Easter.
The customs surrounding these pagan celebrations give them away as evil
Christmas: All of the traditions associated with Christmas such as gift giving, erecting the Christmas tree, burning the yule log, kissing under the mistletoe, a jolly plump man in a fur-lined red suit, sleighs and flying reindeer, and sun disk decorations all derive their origins from pagan winter festivals such as Saturnalia and Sol Invictus. They have absolutely nothing to do with Christianity. The following points are worth considering before engaging in these “harmless” practices:
➔ Gift giving at the winter solstice was invented by pagans to celebrate the sun god.
➔ "Santa Claus is a pagan mockery of God the Father with white hair, a grandfatherly image, eternal, lives in the North, unlimited resources, omniscient (all-knowing of children's behavior), omnipresent for a night, hears confessions, comes as a thief, blesses children, and distributes judgment for works…. Godly parents don't lie to their children about a Roman Catholic myth named Nicholas." (borrowed from an online source)
➔ Ancient Israel worshiped Christmas trees after adopting this custom from the pagan gentiles, as evidenced in the following verses:
Enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree… (Is. 57:5).
For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not (Jer. 10:3-4).
Easter: "What do rabbits and eggs have to do with Jesus Christ and His resurrection? Nothing! What about hot cross buns? Nothing! What about a sunrise service? Nothing! What about ham? Nothing! 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.'
"The assertion that Jesus died on Good Friday afternoon and rose from the dead on Easter Sunday morning is highly erroneous. If this is true, He could not have still been in the ground the three days and three nights that He prophesied and promised (Mat 12:38-40)? This common tradition only allows one day and two nights. If you count parts of Friday and Sunday as whole days, you still only have three days and two nights. The math does not work! There are only two nights! But if we follow the facts stated plainly in God’s Word then we realize that Jesus was buried Wednesday night and rose Saturday night, just as He had declared would be the proof of His identity. Here again is an obvious strike against keeping pagan holidays which only distort the plain truth of the Bible." (borrowed from an online source)
Hot cross buns are a staple custom of Easter. Similar buns have been made in the spring for hundreds of years in areas where paganism flourished. According to the Bible, this tradition was carried out in honor of the “queen of heaven”, also known as Ishtar, Ashtoreth, or Easter. Notice: The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven… (Jer. 7:18).
Note: Scholarly citations are provided below for the above info.
The Bible does not permit us to add or take away from God’s commandments
What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it (Deut. 12:32).
If you doubt this point, just do some research into Cain and his offering (Gen. 4:3-4), Nadab and Abihu, and self-styled worship (Lev 10:1), Moses striking the rock rather than speaking to it (Num 20:8-11), and David moving the Ark of the Covenant on a new ox cart (2 Sam 6:1-23). All five individuals were judged severely for presumptuousness and improvising upon God’s dictates. Therefore it is a sin to celebrate Christ's birth once a year on a pagan holiday simply because it is improvising on God's Word and doing for God that which was not commanded or instructed. Just like praying with rosary beads and icons.
The Law clearly forbids using pagan customs in worship of Jehovah
According to the Law, God condemns the adoption of pagan religious practices in His worship:
… and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise (Deut. 12:29).
We find this prohibition reiterated in the New Testament:
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? (2 Cor. 6:14-16).
Sadly, the church has ignored this clear prohibition and has compromised with paganism for the sake of pragmatism.
Pope Gregory wrote to Augustine in 597 A.D., "Do not destroy the temples of the English gods; change them to Christian churches. Do not forbid the harmless customs which have been associated with the old religions; consecrate them to Christian uses."
Edward Gibbon wrote, in his history of Rome, "The most respectable bishops had persuaded themselves, that the ignorant rustics would more cheerfully renounce the superstitions of Paganism, if they found some resemblance, some compensation, in the bosom of Christianity. The religion of Constantine achieved, in less than a century, the final conquest of the Roman Empire. But the victors themselves were insensibly subdued by the arts of their vanquished rivals."
Philip Schaff wrote, "Not a few pagan habits crept into the church concealed by new names. This is conceded by the most earnest of the Fathers."
Protestants have always condemned Catholics for setting up an icon of Jesus Christ and bowing before it in worship. But don't Protestant Christians do this with Christmas and Easter? Many of us set up a false image of Christ in the form of a pagan celebration and use it to honor Christ. In many ways, we are no different than the Catholics.
Historically, America and Britain had outlawed pagan holidays
From 1620-1659, Pilgrims and Puritans seeking to worship God in truth formally banned Christmas and Easter from their American colonies. Up until 1659, it was still a crime to observe Christmas in Boston punishable by a 5 shillings fine. The public schools in Boston were still open for classes on December 25th as late as 1870. For the two centuries following the Pilgrims, Christians in America called it "popish." It was also a crime to observe Christmas in England roughly during the same time period. English parliament under Oliver Cromwell outlawed it in 1644 and punished violators. Charles Spurgeon, the most popular Baptist minister in England, preached against it as late as 1871.
Great men of God such as John & Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Finney, George Muller, Dwight L. Moody, and John Nelson Darby were either unknown to celebrate Christmas and Easter or openly condemned these holidays. In obedience to God's Word, these men refused to mingle the holy Faith with pagan customs and celebrations. It is sad that many Christians today have chosen to evolve with the times and dilute their Christian Faith with worldly activities.
Note: Scholarly citations are provided below for the above info.
The LORD calls Jewish holy days a matter of liberty, not pagan holidays
The celebration of pagan holidays is not a "matter of Christian liberty". While the New Testament offers Christians the choice to celebrate Jewish holy days, it does not provide the same freedom in regards to pagan holidays. But Christians will often cite 1 Corinthians 8:4 and Colossians 2:16-17 in justification of observing pagan holidays. Sadly, there is much confusion about these verses. So let's take a look at what they actually say:
"Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days. Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ." (Col. 2:16-17)
"As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one." (1 Cor. 8:4)
In Colossians 2, Paul is extending liberty of conscience to gentile Christians who choose not to observe the Old Testament's ceremonial laws. The Mosaic Law contains clear guidelines concerning food and drink, Jewish holy days, new moons, and high holy sabbaths. Some of these are practical and beneficial and there are Christians who choose to observe them and some who don't. However, all of the Old Testament's laws, regardless of what category they fall into, are a shadow picture of Christ's redemptive work-- "a shadow of things to come". Now to be clear, Paul was NOT offering gentile Christians a free pass to go and partake in heathen practices. Instead, he was attempting to curtail the influence of the Judaizers of his day, who were actively converting gentile Believers to strict Law observance. The same explanation can be applied to 1 Corinthians 8, where Paul is clearly talking about food, not pagan holidays. While it is true that an "idol is nothing", Paul did not mean that pagan customs are therefore ok. Otherwise, our Christian liberty could then be extended to other things also. Why not decorate our homes with miniature Buddhas or sculptures of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva? Or we may decide that icons of Jesus, Mary, and the many "saints" are a great addition to our prayer routine. Do you see the folly of such thinking? If we aren't careful, it is easy to interpret the Bible improperly.
Do this in remembrance of me
The Scriptures teach us to remember Christ's death (Phip. 3:10; 1 Cor. 15:3). Therefore, the LORD Jesus gave us the Christian rites of baptism and communion, which continually remind us of His death (Rom. 6:3-5; 1 Cor. 11:26). After all, it is Christ's death that saves us, not His birth or resurrection--though we do well to remember with gratitude all of these--Christ's birth, death, and resurrection.
You can’t put Christ back into something He was never in to begin with
This point hardly needs elaborating. If Jesus never instituted the celebration of His birthday on December 25th, and if we can't find mention of it anywhere in the Bible, then there is no need to participate in the Christmas myth!
Jesus wasn’t born on or near December 25
Jesus was not born in December. This is an important fact. But we can be certain that if Christ wanted us to celebrate His birthday, His exact date of birth would have been recorded in Scripture. Instead, historians estimate his birth to have occurred sometime in October. Several reasons for this exist:
(a) Shepherds did not remain in the fields during winter.
(b) Taxation would not have been in the dead of winter, but rather shortly after harvest.
(c) Careful calculation of the priest's courses excludes it.
So now that we understand this, is it ok to honor Christ's birth? Yes, absolutely. We should rejoice over Christ's birth every day of the year. And we don't need Christmas as an excuse to do so.
Christians should not partake in idolatry
"Christmas has always been, is now, and ever shall be a pagan festival. It has grown over the centuries to become the enchanting, magical, merchant-driven insult to God that it now is. We are mesmerized by it. Hooked on it. Enslaved by it. And in debt to it. Dennis Loewen adds, 'Christmas is another example of how powerful the false living spirit of harlotry is. There is a spirit of Christmas. It is warm; it is wonderful; it is good...and it is not from God.' Satan uses this pagan feast to steal glory from the Son of God for ignorant sun worship. The LORD condemns sun worship (Deut. 4:19; 17:3; 2 Kgs. 23:5; Job 31:26-28; Eze. 8:16).
"Christmas is one of those 'high places' that most of us seem unwilling to tear down, even knowing how God might feel about it. Our minds are made up. 'I like Christmas,' one young mother told me. The rest of her sentence was implied, 'So I'm going to do it.' We build manger scenes in our yards and erect glow-in-the-dark Santa Clauses next to them. Buddy at the checkout counter illustrated this mix very simply. He had a Santa Claus hat on his head and a W.W.J.D. (what would Jesus do?) band around his neck. Buddy, Jesus would not have worn that hat. After I told a dear old lady why I no longer do Christmas, she responded, 'But I don't think of pagan gods when I look at my Christmas tree. I think of Jesus.' That seemed reasonable to me. I asked God about it. He answered. 'What would you think if you caught your wife in adultery, and she answered, 'But, honey, I was thinking of you the whole time'?" (borrowed from The Harlot Church System)
Question: What do you say when people greet you with merry Christmas or happy Easter during the holidays?
Answer: I like to tell them that I celebrate the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ every day of the year, which gives me the opportunity to share the Gospel with them.
Scholarly Citations Section:
Encyclopedia Britannica: "In the 3rd century, the Roman Empire, which at the time had not adopted Christianity, celebrated the rebirth of the Unconquered Sun (Sol Invictus) on December 25th. This holiday not only marked the return of longer days after the winter solstice, but also followed the popular Roman festival called Saturnalia (during which people feasted and exchanged gifts). It was also the birthday of the Indo-European deity Mithra, a god of light and loyalty whose cult was at the time growing popular among Roman soldiers.
"The church in Rome began formally celebrating Christmas on December 25 in 336, during the reign of the emperor Constantine. As Constantine had made Christianity the effective religion of the empire, some have speculated that choosing this date had the political motive of weakening the established pagan celebrations."
New World Encyclopedia: “Christians began to celebrate Christ’s birthday on December 25, which was already an important pagan festival, in order to safely adapt to Roman customs while still honoring Jesus' birth. This is how Christmas came to be celebrated on the Roman holiday of Saturnalia, and it was from the pagan holiday that many of the customs of Christmas had their roots. The celebrations of Saturnalia included the making and giving of small presents (saturnalia et sigillaricia). This holiday was observed over a series of days beginning on December 17 (the birthday of Saturn), and ending on December 25 (the birthday of Sol Invictus, the ‘Unconquered Sun’). The combined festivals resulted in an extended winter holiday season. Business was postponed and even slaves feasted. There was drinking, gambling and singing, and nudity was relatively common. It was the ‘best of days,’ according to the poet Catullus. The feast of Sol Invictus on December 25 was a sacred day in the religion of Mithraism, which was widespread in the Roman Empire. Its god, Mithras, was a solar deity of Persian origin, identified with the Sun. It displayed its unconquerability as ‘Sol Invictus’ when it began to rise higher in the sky following the Winter Solstice—hence December 25 was celebrated as the Sun's birthday."
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."
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."
The New Book of Knowledge (1978) declares, "The custom of a sunrise service on Easter Sunday can be traced to ancient spring festivals that celebrated the rising sun."
The Oxford English Dictionary reads, "Easter. The name is derived from Eostre, the name of a goddess whose festival was celebrated at the vernal equinox; her name shows that she was originally the dawn-goddess."
Compton's Encyclopedia reads, "Our name Easter comes from Eostre, an ancient Anglo-Saxon goddess, originally of the dawn. In pagan times an annual spring festival was held in her honor."
Academic American Encyclopedia reads, "According to the Venerable Bede, the name Easter derived from the pagan spring festival of the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre."
Wikipedia: "Astarte the goddess, the Queen of Heaven, whose worship Jeremiah so vehemently opposed, was the ancient fertility goddess Astarte. Astarte is the name of a goddess as known from Northwestern Semitic regions, cognate in name, origin and functions with the goddess Ishtar in Mesopotamian texts. Another transliteration is ‘Ashtart; other names for the goddess include Hebrew תרתשע) transliterated Ashtoreth), Ugaritic ‘ṯtrt (also ‘Aṯtart or ‘Athtart), Akkadian DAs-tar-tú (also Astartu) and Etruscan Uni-Astre ( Pyrgi Tablets). Astarte was connected with fertility , sexuality, and war… Astarte was accepted by the Greeks under the name of Aphrodite... Asherah was worshipped in ancient Israel as the consort of El and in Judah as the consort of Yahweh and Queen of Heaven (the Hebrews baked small cakes for her festival)..."
Wikipedia: "On the mainland, seventeenth-century Puritan New England had laws forbidding the observance of Christmas. The Christian groups who broke with the Catholic Church and the Church of England deemphasized Christmas in the early colonial period."
Addressing the Matter of Pagan Origins
A recent article by Johnathan Sarfati (from creation.com) has been making the rounds lately attempting to deny the pagan origins of Easter. Sadly, many of its claims are patently false and misleading. After I was forwarded this article by a Christian Brother, I sent back the following enclosed response:
Greetings Br. Phil,
Thanks for sharing this article with me. To be honest, I am a bit skeptical about Johnathan Sarfati's research into this issue. I have several concerns that I'd like to raise. First, I was surprised to read his concluding statement on this matter:
"The pagan derivation of Easter is conspiratorial fantasy. The word is Anglo-Saxon, and derived from the Germanic Oster meaning Passover, and is related to the words for Resurrection."
After reading through his article and snooping into his scholarly sources, I dug up quite a number of problems such as the following:
1. His claim that German Christians were responsible for coming up with the Easter bunny and egg sounds a bit bogus. Needless to say, Sarfati provides very sketchy source data to back it up. However, there is substantial evidence to the contrary. The vast majority of Christian and secular historians agree that Easter and the traditions surrounding it are deeply rooted in paganism. In fact, recent archaeology has demonstrated that some of the earliest written records of these traditions can be traced to ancient Egypt.
“the hare was a divine creature called Weni, or Wen-nefer … an insignia of Re’s rising as the sun and also of the resurrective powers of Osiris.” Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt
“I have arisen from the Egg which is in the secret land… . I am Osiris. I seek out that great place which is in Wenu, I have guarded the Egg... If I be strong, it will be strong; if I live, it will live; if I breathe the air, it will breathe the air” Book of the Dead (Egyptian funerary papyrus scrolls [spell 22; 56]).
"The earliest histories of Europe and Asia include allusions to rabbits and eggs as important fertility symbols in the spring festivals of rebirth that were embraced by ancient polytheistic religions. Beliefs centered around this season of new life, renewal and regeneration spawned religious ceremonies and rites to ensure the fertility of flocks and fields. Some of the earliest written records of these rituals come from ancient Egypt. Written records of these symbols—a convergence of hares, eggs, death, sunrise services and resurrection with striking similarities to today’s Easter celebrations—date from as early as 2300 B.C.E., though the oral tradition behind the writings began even earlier." On the Trail of the Easter Bunny, Alice Abler
“Eggs were hung up in the Egyptian temples. Bunsen calls attention to the mundane egg, the emblem of generative life, proceeding from the mouth of the great god of Egypt. The mystic egg of Babylon, hatching the Venus Ishtar, fell from heaven to the Euphrates. Dyed eggs were sacred Easter offerings in Egypt, as they are still in China and Europe. Easter, or spring, was the season of birth, terrestrial and celestial.” Egyptian Belief and Modern Thought, James Bonwick, pp. 211-212
“Although adopted in a number of Christian cultures, the Easter bunny has never received any specific Christian interpretation.” Mirsea Eliade, The Encyclopedia of Religion, p. 558
“The origin of the Easter egg is based on the fertility lore of the Indo-European races…The egg to them was a symbol of spring…In Christian times the egg had bestowed upon it a religious interpretation, becoming a symbol of the rock tomb out of which Christ emerged to the new life of His resurrection.” Francis X. Weiser, Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, p. 233
“Around the Christian observance of Easter…folk customs have collected, many of which have been handed down from the ancient ceremonial…symbolism of European and Middle Eastern pagan spring festivals…for example, eggs…have been very prominent as symbols of new life and resurrection.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 1991 ed., Vol. 4, p. 333
“The Easter bunny had its origin in pre-Christian fertility lore…The Easter bunny has never had religious symbolism bestowed on its festive usage…However, the bunny has acquired a cherished role in the celebration of Easter as the legendary producer of Easter eggs for children in many countries.” Francis Weiser Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, pp. 235-236
“The Easter bunny is not a true Christian symbol.” John Bradner, Symbols of Church Seasons and Days, p. 52
“The hare, the symbol of fertility in ancient Egypt, a symbol that was kept later in Europe…Its place has been taken by the Easter rabbit.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 1991 ed., Vol. 4, p. 333
Considering the information just provided, one can hardly be blamed for doubting Sarfati's credibility as a proper scholar.
2. Sarfati's etymology of the Anglo-Saxon "Easter" fails to explain its derivation from the Latin Pascha. Nor does it prove that Eostre was not in fact a German deity of fertility. Also, his research in this area doesn't match that of German linguist and scholar Jacob Grimm, who has long been accepted as an expert in his field. Yet many other historians confirm the same thing, namely that the etymology of Easter is pagan:
“In Babylonia…the goddess of spring was called Ishtar. She was identified with the planet Venus, which, because… [it] rises before the Sun…or sets after it…appears to love the light [this means Venus loves the sun-god]…In Phoenecia, she became Astarte; in Greece, Eostre [related to the Greek word Eos: 'dawn'], and in Germany, Ostara [this comes from the German word Ost: 'east,' which is the direction of dawn]” (Englehart, p. 4).
The widely-known historian, Will Durant, in his famous and respected work, Story of Civilization, pp. 235, 244-245, writes: “Ishtar [Astarte to the Greeks, Ashtoreth to the Jews], interests us not only as analogue of the Egyptian Isis and prototype of the Grecian Aphrodite and the Roman Venus, but as the formal beneficiary of one of the strangest of Babylonian customs…known to us chiefly from a famous page in Herodotus: Every native woman is obliged, once in her life, to sit in the temple of Venus [Easter], and have intercourse with some stranger.”
And there are scores of others who agree with Durant: “The fact that vernal festivals were general among pagan peoples no doubt had much to do with the form assumed by the Eastern festival in the Christian churches. The English term Easter is of pagan origin” (Albert Henry Newman, D.D., LL.D., A Manual of Church History, p. 299).
“On this greatest of Christian festivals, several survivals occur of ancient heathen ceremonies. To begin with, the name itself is not Christian but pagan. Ostara was the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of Spring” (Ethel L. Urlin, Festival, Holy Days, and Saints Days, p. 73).
“Easter—the name Easter comes to us from Ostera or Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, for whom a spring festival was held annually, as it is from this pagan festival that some of our Easter customs have come” (Hazeltine, p. 53).
3. Sarfati bases most of his claims upon two modern scholars, namely Ronald Hutton and Ralph Woodrow, and both have very little prominence or credibility in their field. He rejects the historical record of the Venerable Bede because, says Sarfati, "Bede didn't provide enough historical data to support his claim connecting Easter with Eostre, the German goddess of fertility". ...Not only is this accusation false, but of course, it is also an argument from silence. To me, Sarfati seems like an imbibed scholar from the 21st century pointing his finger in criticism at a highly established historian from the 7th century and an eyewitness to the earliest pagan customs and traditions of primeval Europe.
Moreover, how does Sarfati get away with ignoring the fact that Bede was the most respectable British historian of the past 1,300 years. Patrick Wormald described Bede as "the first and greatest of England's historians". (Wikipedia) Notice the following information concerning Bede's Sources:
"The monastery at Wearmouth-Jarrow, had an excellent library. Both Benedict Biscop and Ceolfrith had acquired books from the Continent, and in Bede's day the monastery was a renowned centre of learning. It has been estimated that there were about 200 books in the monastic library. For the period prior to Augustine's arrival in 597, Bede drew on earlier writers, including Solinus. He had access to two works of Eusebius: the Historia Ecclesiastica, and also the Chronicon, though he had neither in the original Greek; instead he had a Latin translation of the Historia, by Rufinus, and Saint Jerome's translation of the Chronicon. He also knew Orosius's Adversus Paganus, and Gregory of Tours' Historia Francorum, both Christian histories, as well as the work of Eutropius, a pagan historian. He used Constantius's Life of Germanus as a source for Germanus's visits to Britain. Bede's account of the invasion of the Anglo-Saxons is drawn largely from Gildas's De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae. Bede would also have been familiar with more recent accounts such as Eddius Stephanus's Life of Wilfrid, and anonymous Lives of Gregory the Great and Cuthbert. He also drew on Josephus's Antiquities, and the works of Cassiodorus, and there was a copy of the Liber Pontificalis in Bede's monastery. Bede quotes from several classical authors, including Cicero, Plautus, and Terence, but he may have had access to their work via a Latin grammar rather than directly. However, it is clear he was familiar with the works of Virgil and with Pliny the Elder's Natural History, and his monastery also owned copies of the works of Dionysius Exiguus. He probably drew his account of St. Alban from a life of that saint which has not survived. He acknowledges two other lives of saints directly; one is a life of Fursa, and the other of St. Aethelburh; the latter no longer survives. He also had access to a life of Ceolfrith. Some of Bede's material came from oral traditions, including a description of the physical appearance of Paulinus of York, who had died nearly 90 years before Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica was written." Wikipedia
Consider the fact that Bede was also responsible for translating our current volumes of Church history from Latin and Greek. If we can't trust his historical record, we are certainly in trouble.... Sarfati does the same with historian Alexander Hislop (author of the "Two Babylons"), also accusing him of faulty research without source data. Once again, this is false. Hislop was well educated in pagan history and was considered an expert in his field. He drew largely from the Church Fathers' writings on this matter such as, Origen (Homily on Leviticus 8), Athenagoras (Legatio, vol. ii. p. 179), and Lucian (De Dea Syria, vol iii. p. 382) when connecting the Christmas and Easter observance to earlier paganism.
You see, the Catholic Church is solely responsible for creating and promoting these non-christian celebrations, and as a result, the early pilgrims of America were wary of anything to do with Christmas and Easter:
“When the Puritans came to North America, they regarded the celebration of Easter—and the celebration of Christmas—with suspicion. They knew that pagans had celebrated the return of spring long before Christians celebrated Easter…for the first two hundred years of European life in North America, only a few states, mostly in the South, paid much attention to Easter....Easter first became an American tradition in the 1870s” Steve Englehart
"Pope Gregory the Great, in a letter written in 601 C.E. to a Christian missionary (Mellitus) in Britain, recommended that local pagan temples not be destroyed but be converted into churches, and that pagan festivals be celebrated as feasts of Christian martyrs. This letter suggested the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons be undertaken gradually, integrating pagan rituals and customs. In 610, Mellitus returned to Italy to attend a council of bishops, and returned to England bearing papal letters to some of the missionaries." Wikipedia
And, finally, this pattern of substituting pagan celebrations with Christian ones is made most clear by the famous historian, James George Frazer in the following quote:
“Now the death and resurrection of Attis were officially celebrated at Rome on the 24th and 25th of March, the latter being regarded as the spring equinox, and…according to an ancient and widespread tradition Christ suffered on the 25th of March…the tradition which placed the death of Christ on the 25th of March…is all the more remarkable because astronomical considerations prove that it can have had no historical foundation…When we remember that the festival of St. George in April has replaced the ancient pagan festival of the Parilia; that the festival of St. John the Baptist in June has succeeded to a heathen Midsummer festival of water; that the festival of the Assumption of the Virgin in August has ousted the festival of Diana; that the feast of All Souls [following Halloween] in November is a continuation of an old heathen feast of the dead; and that the Nativity of Christ himself was assigned to the winter solstice in December because that day was deemed the Nativity of the Sun; we can hardly be thought to be rash or unreasonable in conjecturing that the other cardinal festival of the Christian church—the solemnization of Easter—may have been in like manner, and from like motives of edification, adapted to a similar celebration of the Phrygian god Attis at the vernal equinox…It is a remarkable coincidence…that the Christian and the heathen festivals of the divine death and resurrection should have been solemnized at the same season…It is difficult to regard the coincidence as purely accidental” (The Golden Bough, Vol. I, pp. 306-309).
Are Easter & Passover fundamentally the same?
Many Christians seem convinced that Easter and Passover are really the same celebration. They believe that Easter only differs from Passover in that it honors the resurrection of Jesus. Allow me to demonstrate how flawed this supposition really is:
According to the Bible, Passover begins on the 14th day of Nisan (Lev 23:4-8) and continues for a total of eight days. It occurs on a fixed date in relation to a lunar calendar and involves the eating of unleavened bread and lamb. This feast symbolizes that Jesus is our Passover lamb free from sin (leaven).
Easter is a "movable festival" which is chosen to correspond with the first Sunday following the full moon after the March equinox. Essentially, it always occurs on the first Sunday after the start of spring. It involves a typical "sunrise" service and the baking of cross buns, accompanied by the Easter egg hunt.
So as we can see, Passover was always tied directly to the moon, regardless of the day of the week on which it fell! God's instruction was to observe Passover on the 14th day of Nisan (Exodus 12:1-6), not the nearest Sunday to this or any other date as is done with Easter.
The Quartodeciman Controversy: From Passover to Easter (borrowed from rcg.org)
The Quartodeciman Controversy relates to a split within the early Church between those who wanted to observe the Passover exactly as commanded by Scripture, i.e on the 14th day of the 1st month (Nisan/April), and those who wanted to follow the Roman Catholic tradition of substituting it with the now common Easter celebration. First, notice the following by Eusebius (a well-known historian of the early Church) from his work, Ecclesiastical History, Book V, chapters XXIII and XXIV:
“A question of no small importance arose at that time. For the parishes of all Asia, as from an older tradition, held that the fourteenth day of the moon, on which day the Jews were commanded to sacrifice the lamb, should be observed as the feast of the Saviour’s passover…the bishops of Asia, led by Polycrates, decided to hold to the old custom handed down to them. He himself, in a letter which he addressed to Victor and the church of Rome, set forth in the following words the tradition which had come down to him: “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…and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord…and Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, bishop and martyr from Eumenia…the bishop and martyr Sagaris…the blessed Papirius, or Melito…All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith.”
The 1967 New Catholic Encyclopedia states, “Quartodeciman, a term used to describe the practice in the early Church of celebrating Easter (Passover) on the 14th of Nisan (die quarta decima), the day of the Jewish Passover (Ex. 12:6). Quartodecimanism, prevalent in Asia Minor and Syria in the 2nd century, emphasized the death of Christ, the true Paschal victim (Jn. 18:28; 19:42), while Roman practice emphasized the observance of Sunday as the day of the Resurrection. Implicit in these two positions is the disputed chronology of Holy Week. As Christianity separated from Judaism, gentile Christians objected to observing the principal Christian feasts on the same day as the Jewish Passover.
“Roman efforts to induce the Quartodecimans to abandon their practice were unsuccessful. On a visit to Rome (c. 155), St. Polycarp of Smyrna amicably discussed the question with Pope Anicetus without, however, reaching agreement. Pope Victor (189-198) sought unity through a series of synods held in both East and West; all accepted the Roman practice except the Asiatic bishops. When Victor attempted coercion by excommunication, St. Irenaeus of Lyons intervened to restore peace (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 5.23-25). During the 3rd century Quartodecimanism waned; it persisted in some Asiatic communities down to the 5th century” (Vol. 12, p. 13).
The following statement from the Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th Edition, well summarizes the story of how Easter slowly came to replace the Passover by A.D. 325 within visible, organized “Christianity”:
“Although the observance of Easter was at a very early period in the practice of the Christian Church [false], a serious difference as to the day for its observance soon arose between the [true] Christians of Jewish and those of Gentile decent, which led to a long and bitter controversy…The Jewish Christians…(observed) the 14th day of the moon at evening…without regard to the day of the week. The Gentile Christians (Roman Catholics)…identified the first day of the week with the resurrection, and kept the preceding Friday as the commemoration of the crucifixion, irrespective of the day of the month.
“Generally speaking, the Western Churches (Roman Catholic) kept Easter on the 1st day of the week, while the Eastern Churches [including the remnant of the true Church] followed the Jewish rule [the true Christian Passover].
“Polycarp, the disciple of John the Evangelist (last of the 12 apostles), and bishop of Smyrna, visited Rome in 159 (sic) to confer with Anicetus, the bishop of that see, on the subject, and urged the tradition which he had received from the apostles of observing the 14th day. Anicetus, however, declined. About forty years later (197), the question was discussed in a very different spirit between Victor, bishop of Rome, and Polycrates, metropolitan of proconsular Asia. That province [embracing churches founded through the apostle Paul, like Antioch and all of those identified in Revelation 2 and 3 as the true Church] was the only portion of Christendom which still adhered to the Jewish usage. Victor demanded that all should adopt the usage prevailing at Rome. This Polycrates firmly refused to agree to, and urged many weighty reasons to the contrary, whereupon Victor proceeded to excommunicate Polycrates and the Christians who continued the [correct] Eastern usage. He was, however, restrained (by counsel from other bishops) from actually proceeding to enforce the decree of excommunication…and the Asiatic churches retained their usage unmolested. We find the Jewish usage (the true New Testament Passover) from time to time reasserting itself after this, but it never prevailed to any large extent.
“A final settlement of the dispute was one among the other reasons which led Constantine [Roman Emperor] to summon the council at Nicaea in 325. At that time the Syrians and Antiochenes were the solitary champions of the observance of the 14th day. The decision of the council was unanimous that Easter was to be kept on Sunday, and on the same Sunday throughout the world, and that none hereafter should follow the blindness of the Jews. [Or, in other words, no one was allowed to follow the example of Christ and the true Church He founded!]…The FEW who afterwards separated themselves from the unity of the [politically organized] church, and continued to keep the 14th day, were named Quartodecimani [from the Latin word for 14], and the dispute itself is known as the Quartodeciman controversy” (Vol. VIII, pp. 828-829).
The 1967 New Catholic Encyclopedia states this: “Occasionally, the Quartodecimans celebrated Easter on the day that other Christians were observing Good Friday. Originally both observances were allowed, but gradually it was felt incongruous that Christians should celebrate Easter on a Jewish feast, and unity in celebrating the principal Christian feast was called for” (Vol. 5, p. 8).
Now notice this quote from the 1967 New Catholic Encyclopedia concluding the matter of how the Council of Nicea “decided,” for all, the matter of Easter versus Passover:
“As for Easter, the Fathers decreed (1) that all Christians should observe it on the same day, (2) that Jewish customs should not be followed, and (3) that the practice of the West, of Egypt, and of other Churches should remain in force, namely, of celebrating Easter on the Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox” (Vol. 5, p. 433).
The 1909 edition of The Catholic Encyclopedia says, “After the Pope’s strong measures the Quarterdecimans seemed to have gradually dwindled away. Origen in the “Philosophumena” (VIII, xviii) seems to regard them as a mere handful of wrong-headed nonconformists. The second stage of the Easter controversy centered around the Council of Nicaea [A.D. 325] granting that the great Easter festival was always to be held on a Sunday, and was not to be coincident with a particular phase of the moon, which might occur on any day of the week” (Vol. 5, p. 228).
The same edition of The Catholic Encyclopedia, when describing the final decision at Nicaea in A.D. 325, quotes the words of the Emperor Constantine, writing to all the churches:
“At this meeting the question concerning the most holy day of Easter was discussed, and it was resolved by the united judgment of all present that this feast ought to be kept by all and in every place on one and the same day…And first of all it appeared an unworthy thing that in the celebration of this most holy feast we should follow the practice of the Jews, who have impiously defiled their hands with enormous sin…for we have received from our Saviour a different way…And I myself have undertaken that this decision should meet with the approval of your Sagacities in the hope that your Wisdoms will gladly admit that practice which is observed at once in the city of Rome and in Africa, throughout Italy and in Egypt…with entire unity of judgment.”
Finally, this same source concludes a few paragraphs later with, “The final decision always lay with accepted ecclesiastical authority…was primarily a matter of ecclesiastical discipline and not astronomical science” (p. 229). These two short phrases make it clear that church authority at Rome, and not God’s Word, determined whether Easter or the Passover would be kept.
CONCLUSION: CAN WE SIMPLY SUBSTITUTE PAGAN THINGS WITH CHRISTIAN THEMES?
Is it right to take a worldly practice such as the tattoo and use it to brand our bodies with the name Jesus Christ? Put another way, is it right to take devilish music such as rock and roll and dedicate it to God by adding Christian lyrics? Now think with me even further, could we do this with satanic pentagrams, Halloween, ouija boards, etc? Of course, the answer is NO! We should never borrow anything from satan and think we can use it for God.
By reading the Bible, we recognize that sun worship and worship of fertility deities is ancient and has always rivaled worship of Jehovah, provoking Him to jealousy. Easter and Christmas are no exception. It is wrong, therefore, to take something that intrinsically belongs to satan and consecrate it to God by changing things around a little. Apostle Paul warned against trying to merge or marry up the things of God with idols: "And what concord hath Christ with Belial? ...And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?" (2 Cor. 6:14-16) Jesus made it abundantly clear in His reproof to the Church at Thyatira that such actions were condemnable: "Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols" (Rev. 2:20). It is obvious that the Christians at Thyatira were not only guilty of immorality, but also stood rebuked for partaking in pagan idolatry. Some of us would do well to heed this warning and to reconsider our participation in the idolatrous holidays of Christmas and Easter.
“Therefore 'Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you'” (2 Cor. 6:17).
Yours in Christ,