By Everett Sturgeon
Easter has become the one time of the year for many people to attend church services, honestly believing that they are commemorating the resurrection of Christ. But as important as Easter has become to most Americans, it was for many years rejected by American Protestants who believed that to follow the church calendar and keep certain days was to follow and bow to the dictates of the Pope.
Each year, national magazines and publications of every type carry overly emotional and overly exaggerated articles and, for the most part, false theories about the word Easter and the resurrection of Jesus, planting the sinful, evil, ugly seeds of paganism and the doctrines of Catholicism into the unlearned and hungry minds of men and women. In many cases, it has become evident that the very elect, individuals and even congregations, have turned to be like the world about us, to practice paganism and keep days and festivals unknown to the Lord’s New Testament teachings.
Because of tradition, most people of the day believe that Easter has always been observed from apostolic times and is by authority of the scriptures. Long before the Lord’s resurrection, there were many great pagan festivals during the spring season. It is surprising how many of the ancient rites have found their way into the Christian observance.
We are not to pollute the worship of God with the traditions of men, the words of men, nor the days of men. Let us hear the apostle Paul as he reproves the Christians of Galatia along these very same lines: “. . . when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain” (Gal. 4:8-11).
Let us note some other reproofs:
A. “Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) And when he had apprehended him, 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” (Acts 12:1-4). This is the only place in the English translation of the Bible that the word Easter is (inaccurately) recorded. This same
Greek word is used in Matthew 26:2; Mark 14:1; Luke 2:41 and 22:1; John 2:13,23, and other places, and in every instance is translated passover. Today, if we were to celebrate the Easter of Acts 12:4, it would not be the Easter of today but the Jewish Passover! Herod put forth his hands to afflict certain of the church. It is absurd to think that he wanted to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.
B. Of this translation (Acts 12:4), Albert Barnes, noted Presbyterian commentator, says, “There never was a more absurd or unhappy translation than this. The original is simply `after the Passover.’ The word Easter now denotes the festival observed by many Christians in honour of the resurrection of the Saviour. But the original has no reference to that, nor is there the slightest evidence that any such festival was observed at the time when this book was written. The translation is not only unhappy, as it does not convey at all the meaning of the original, but because it may contribute to foster an opinion that such a festival was observed in the time of the apostles.”
C. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament says, “The word translated `passover’ and the one used in Acts 12:4 is `pascha’ meaning `a passing over.’ It is used with reference to the paschal feast, the feast of passover.”
D. The Encyclopedia Britannica, 14th Ed. (Vol. II, p. 859), says, “There is no indication of the observance of the Easter festival in the New Testament or in the writings of the apostolic fathers. The sanctity of special times was an idea absent from the minds of the first Christians.” In apostolic times, the Christians commemorated their Lord’s resurrection every Sunday by meeting on that day for worship. When Paul refers to Christ as “our passover” (1 Cor. 5:7), his language is metaphorical and cannot be regarded as containing any allusion to a church function (A Dictionary of Religion and Ethics, p. 140).
Acceptance of the scriptures as inspired of God demands rejection of the uninspired words of men. To entertain the popular opinion that the Bible does not contain all that God would have us know on this or any other Bible subject is to reject it as incomplete (Jas. 1:25) and the ultimate end is that we will be found adding to it or taking from it, condemning ourselves forever (Rev. 22:18-19).
When I see men, often known sinners, dress themselves in robes to portray the Son of God, I am sickened to disgust and am reminded “to remember the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; how that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who would walk after their own ungodly lusts” (Jude 17-18). Paul said, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, 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).
In closing, let us earnestly and fearfully take heed to the word of God through Jeremiah: “Thus saith the Lord, stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein and ye shall find rest for your souls” (Jer. 6:16). Easter began too late, and is without the authority of God.
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 7, p. 6-7
April 7, 1994