Should Christians celebrate Passover or should they celebrate Easter? The answer may seem quite obvious to some of you, but in reality this question has become quite a controversy in the Christian community over the past several years. As Christians have learned more about the history of each holiday, an increasing number of Christians have been choosing to celebrate Passover rather than Easter.
But why would that be? After all, isn’t Passover a “Jewish” holiday and Easter a “Christian” holiday? Well, that is not really the case. In fact, the earliest Christians did not celebrate a holiday called “Easter” at all. Rather, they all celebrated Passover. Even after the original generation of apostles died off, many of the early church leaders still continued to observe Passover as described in the Torah, but other early church leaders of that next generation slowly started to move the celebration of Passover to Sunday.
In a letter to the head of the church of Rome, Irenaeus mentioned the controversy that took place when Polycarp tried to persuade Anicetus (a previous bishop of Rome) that the celebration of Passover should not be moved to Sunday.
And when the blessed Polycarp was sojourning in Rome in the time of Anicetus, although a slight controversy had arisen among them as to certain other points, they were at once well inclined towards each other [with regard to the matter in hand], not willing that any quarrel should arise between them upon this head. For neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp to forego the observance [in his own way], inasmuch as these things had been always [so] observed by John the disciple of our Lord, and by other apostles with whom he had been conversant; nor, on the other hand, could Polycarp succeed in persuading Anicetusto keep [the observance in his way], for he maintained that he was bound to adhere to the usage of the presbyters who preceded him. And in this state of affairs they held fellowship with each other; and Anicetus conceded to Polycarp in the Church the celebration of the Eucharist, by way of showing him respect; so that they parted in peace one from the other, maintaining peace withthe whole Church, both those who did observe [this custom] and those who did not.
You see, Polycarp was one of the greatest leaders of the “2nd generation” of the early church. He had been a disciple of the apostle John himself, and Polycarp insisted that the church should continue to celebrate Passover on the 14th day of the Jewish calendar as the apostles had always done. In fact, the church historian Eusebius wrote that Polycarp observed Passover this way because “he had always observed it with John the disciple of our Lord, and the rest of the apostles, with whom he associated” (Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, 1995, pp. 210-211). After Polycarp, another early church leader named Polycrates argued with Victor, the bishop of Rome, over this same issue.
The following are some excerpts from what Eusebius recorded regarding what Polycrates had to say to Victor:
“There was a considerable discussion raised about this time, in consequence of a difference of opinion respecting the observance of the paschal season. The churches of all Asia, guided by a remoter tradition, supposed that they ought to keep the fourteenth day of the moon for the festival of the Saviour’s passover, in which day the Jews were commanded to kill the paschal lamb”
“The bishops … of Asia, persevering in observing the custom handed down to them from their fathers, were headed by Polycrates. He, indeed, had also set forth the tradition handed down to them, in a letter which he addressed to Victor and the church of Rome. ‘We,’ said he, ‘therefore, observe the genuine day; neither adding thereto nor taking therefrom. For in Asia great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again the day of the Lord’s appearing, in which he will come with glory from heaven, and will raise up all the saints”
“Moreover, John, who rested upon the bosom of our Lord; … also Polycarpof Smyrna, both bishop and martyr. Thraseas, … Sagaris, … Papirius; and Melito … All these observed the fourteenthday of the passover according to the gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. Moreover, I, Polycrates, who am the least of all of you, according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have followed. For there were seven, my relatives [who were] bishops, andI am the eighth; and my relatives always observed the day when the people (i.e., the Jews) threw away the leaven.
“I, therefore, brethren, am now sixty-five years in the Lord, who having conferred with the brethren throughout the world, and having studied the whole of the sacred Scriptures, am not at all alarmed at those things with which I am threatened, to intimidate me. For they who are greater than I, have said, ‘we ought to obey God rather than men”
So although there was an effort by the church of Rome to move the celebration of Passover to Sundays, those who were determined on practicing it as the first apostles had could not be moved off of the original observance. But eventually, during the time of Constantine, the leaders of the institutional church were strong-armed into observing Passover on a Sunday. Later this celebration came to be known as “Easter”.
But why should Christians celebrate Easter? After all, when did Yahshua die on the cross? (On the eve of Passover) When did Yahshua rise from the dead? (On First Fruits During the Feast of Unleavened Bread) What holiday foreshadowed the sacrifice of the lamb of God for hundreds of years before it happened? (Passover) So why do Christians celebrate a holiday known as Easter? In fact, do you even know what the word “Easter” means? Have you ever wondered where the word Easter originated? The truth might just shock you. Many of the old reference books actually contained the truth. The Britannica Encyclopedia (1934) defined Easter this way:
“EASTER (es’ter). Ostara, or Eastre, was the goddess of Spring in the religion of the ancient Angles andSaxons. Every April a festival was celebrated in her honor. With the beginnings of Christianity, the old gods were put aside. From then on the festival was celebrated in honor of the resurrection of Christ, but was still known as Easter after the old goddess.” So if this is the case, then why do Christians celebrate “Easter”? Well, the truth is that the story goes back a long way – all the way back to the ancient Middle East. Perhaps you have heard of “Isis” or “Ishtar” or “Ashtoreth” or “Asherah”. They are ancient names for the same pagan fertility goddess. In fact, if you trace the various pagan fertility goddesses back far enough, they all trace back to Semiramis of ancient Babylon. Over time, “Ashtoreth” and “Asherah” became “Ishtar” which eventually became “Eastre” and then finally “Easter”. Some other names of “Easter” over the centuries included Aphrodite from ancient Cyprus, Astarte from ancient Greece, Demeter from Mycenae, Kali from India and Ostara, a Norse goddess of fertility.
In fact, pagans and Wiccans celebrate a holiday called “Ostara”to this very day. In fact, “Ostara” was celebrated on March 20th in 2009. Well what about Easter eggs and Easter bunnies? Easter “eggs” and Easter bunnies are pagan fertility symbols that celebrate this pagan fertility goddess, and they have been used as symbols for her for thousands of years. The truth is stunning, eh? You see, “Easter” has nothing to do with Yahshua (Jesus). Yahshua (Jesus) died on the eve of Passover. In fact, the festival of Passover was a stunning prophetic picture of what would happen to the Messiah. In the “Old Testament”, God had His people go up to Jerusalem three times per year. One of those times was for Passover. During the very first Passover, God had the Jews take the blood of a lamb and put it on their doorposts so that the death angel would pass over their houses.
But why the doorposts? What are doorposts most commonly made of? Wood. Where does wood come from? From a tree. So the message of that very first Passover was that the blood of the lamb on the tree covers us from the wrath of God. Does that sound familiar? It should. It is the message of the cross – the blood of the lamb on the tree covers us from the wrath of God!
So for centuries upon centuries, God had His people gather in the exact city where Christ would die, at the exact time of the year when He would die, and He had them celebrate a holiday that perfectly foreshadowed the sacrifice of Yahshua (Jesus) the Messiah. So why have Christians rejected the festival of Passover? After all, it is a fact that Jesus celebrated Passover. The Last Supper was actually a Passover meal (just look it up in the Scriptures). During the Last Supper Jesus said that from now on we were to celebrate that meal in memory of Him. And all of humanity will celebrate the Passover during the 1000 year reign of Yahshua. If you don’t believe this, just read Ezekiel chapters 45 and 46 which describe what life will be like during the 1000 year reign of the Messiah. But instead of celebrating Passover, most Christians today celebrate “Easter” just as ancient civilizations such as the Assyrians, the Phoenicians, and the Philistines did. In fact, ritual pagan sex acts were often involved with the celebration of “Easter” in ancient times. That doesn’t sound like much of a Christian holiday.
So why have Christians forsaken a holiday which predicted the sacrifice of Jesus, which is full of symbolism about Jesus, which is during the precise time when Jesus died and rose again and which God tells us in the Scriptures to remember? Why have Christians instead been celebrating a pagan fertility festival that is named after a pagan fertility goddess and is filled with pagan symbols and traditions?
We hope that this article has been very eye opening for you. The reality is that there is a lot more to the holidays that we have been celebrating than we have ever been taught. Don’t just take “holidays” for granted. Learn where they came from and why you celebrate them. Learn what the first Christians did and why they did it. Perhaps there are reasons why we don’t see the same type of power and miracles that the early Christians did. Perhaps it is time to try to recapture the faith and practices of those early Christians.
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