The Not-So-Christian Story of Easter
In the years following the worldwide Great Flood of Noah, the sons of Noah began to have children and the world's population started to multiply. The Bible tells us that Ham, the son of Noah, had a son by the name of Cush, who was the ancestor of a man named Nimrod. The record continues by stating that Nimrod was a great warrior and a 'mighty hunter before the LORD'. What the English translation does not show is that Nimrod was stiff-necked and rebellious, a self-worshiper to the core. He founded the kingdom of Babylon on the plains of Shinar, and tradition tells us that he oversaw the construction of and perhaps conceived of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11). Needless to say this did not work out so well for Nimrod as God confused the language of the world's inhabitants, causing them to divide up along familial lines and disperse across the globe.
After the people left Shinar (which is today Iraq) to scatter over the earth, Nimrod continued to build the kingdom of Babylon. His heart was so proud that he deified himself as the god of the sun. His wife, (many legends say his consort) Semiramis, became pregnant. Around the same time, Nimrod was killed, most likely in battle. Semiramis claimed that Nimrod's sun rays posthumously inseminated her, producing Nimrod's son, Tammuz. She further claimed that Tammuz was not only the son but the reincarnation of the father himself; so Tammuz and Nimrod were the same--the sun 'reborn'.
When Tammuz grew up, he encountered a boar: it was claimed that the boar killed him, but he was resurrected from the dead because Semiramis wept for him. (This is why ham is traditionally eaten at Easter--in revenge for the killing of Tammuz.)
Semiramis went on to deify herself as the goddess of the moon. In later times, various myths developed: Semiramis was said to have been dropped from the moon in a large egg; when the egg hit the earth, Semiramis hatched out--some versions say she emerged as a mermaid-like creature and so became the goddess of fish, whereas others said she appeared as an egg-laying rabbit. Still another version says that she saved a bird whose wings had been frozen by turning it into the Easter bunny, which, since it had previously been a bird, still retained its ability to lay colored eggs.
As the myth-cult grew, Nimrod-Tammuz and Semiramis became known by varying names: Nimrod-Tammuz was known as Bel/Ba'al, Marduk/Molech, Ra-Osiris (as two sides of the same coin), Horus, Mithras, Zeus (Jupiter), Apollo, Hermes (Mercury), Odin-Balder, Heracles (Hercules) and Helios (Sol Invictus) [the latter two relate to Tammuz only]; while Semiramis became Astarte/Ishtar/Easter/Ashtoreth, Isis, Anahita, Hera (Juno), Aphrodite (Venus), Demeter (Ceres), and Frigge.
Note that Ba'al, Ashtoreth, and Molech are the three false deities for whose worship got Israel kicked out of the Promised Land. Furthermore, Ezekiel 8:14-16 records God's condemnation of the practice known as 'weeping for Tammuz'--the forty-day period immediately preceeding the festival of Easter whereupon people would fast for the death and resurrection of Tammuz. The modern Catholic observance of Lent comes directly from this practice.
"What?" some might say. "That can't be." You'd be surprised. Our next stop in history takes us to the year 325 A.D. Many within Christendom now actively blend pagan tradition, imagery, philosophy, and concepts to the Christian faith; Constantine the Great, who believes that Jesus is equivalent to the Roman Sol Invictus and the Greek Helios, has not only become Roman Emperor, but has in effect taken over as the head of the Church. Two major factions of Christians are at war in this world: the Arians, who believe that Jesus was a created being who is either not divine or only partially divine and subordinate to the Father, who alone is God; and the Trinitarians, who believe that God is one God made of three Persons of eternal substance and equal stature (The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). A council was held at the city of Nicaea mainly to settle the argument between these two groups (the Trinitarians won the debate); but among the 'side' issues discussed was the subject of when to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. This was personally addressed by Constantine:
At the council we also considered the issue of our holiest day, Easter, and it was determined by common consent that everyone, everywhere should celebrate it on one and the same day. For what can be more appropriate, or what more solemn, than that this feast from which we have received the hope of immortality, should be kept by all without variation, using the same order and a clear arrangement? And in the first place, it seemed very unworthy for us to keep this most sacred feast following the custom of the Jews, a people who have soiled their hands in a most terrible outrage, and have thus polluted their souls, and are now deservedly blind. Since we have cast aside their way of calculating the date of the festival, we can ensure that future generations can celebrate this observance at the more accurate time which we have kept from the first day of the passion until the present time. Therefore have nothing in common with that most hostile people, the Jews. We have received another way from the Savior. In our holy religion we have set before us a course which is both valid and accurate. Let us unanimously pursue this. Let us, most honored brothers, withdraw ourselves from that detestable association. It is truly most absurd for them to boast that we are incapable of rightly observing these things without their instruction. On what subject are they competent to form a correct judgment, who, after that murder of their Lord lost their senses, and are led not by any rational motive, but by an uncontrollable impulsiveness to wherever their innate fury may drive them? This is why even in this matter they do not perceive the truth, so that they constantly err in the utmost degree, and will celebrate the Feast of Passover a second time in the same year instead of making a suitable correction. Why then should we follow the example of those who are acknowledged to be infected with serious error? Surely we should never allow Easter to be kept twice in one and the same year! But even if these considerations were not laid before you, you should still be careful, both by diligence and prayer, that your pure souls should have nothing in common, or even seem to do so, with the customs of men so utterly depraved.
This should also be considered: In a matter so important and of such religious significance, the slightest disagreement is most irreverent. For our Savior left us only one day to be observed in remembrance of our deliverance, that is the day of his most holy passion. He also wished his catholic church to be one; the members of which are still cared for by one Spirit, that is by the will of God, however much they may be scattered in various places. Let the good sense consistent with your sacred character consider how grievous and inappropriate it is, that on the same days some should be observing fasts, while others are celebrating feasts; and after the days of Easter some should celebrate festivities and enjoyments, while others submit to appointed fastings. For this reason Divine Providence directed that we put into effect an appropriate correction and establish uniformity of practice, as I suppose you are all aware.
So first, it was desirable to change the situation so that we have nothing in common with that nation of father-killers who slew their Lord. Second, the order which is observed by all the churches of the western, southern, and northern parts, and by some also in the eastern is quite suitable. Therefore, at the current time, we all thought it was proper that you, intelligent as you are, would also cheerfully accept what is observed with such general unanimity of sentiment in the city of Rome, throughout Italy, Africa, all Egypt, Spain, France, Britain, Libya, the whole of Greece, and the dioceses of Asia, Pontus, and Cilicia. I pledged myself that this solution would satisfy you after you carefully examined it, especially as I considered that not only are the majority of congregations located in the places just mentioned, but also that we all have a most sacred obligation, to unite in desiring whatever common sense seems to demand, and what has no association with the perjury of the Jews. But to sum up matters briefly, it was determined by common consent that the most holy festival of Easter should be solemnized on one and the same day; for it is not at all decent that there should be in such a sacred serious matter any difference. It is quite commendable to adopt this option which has nothing to do with any strange errors, nor deviates from what is right. --from A Letter to the Churches, Constantine the Great dictated by Eusebius the historian
- That the Jews might celebrate a Passover twice in one year due to 'erroneous calculations'. The calculations used by the Jews in celebrating the Passover were dictated by the Scriptures; therefore, if the Jews err in this way, so does the Bible. Also, the Hebrew lunisolar calendar contained enough leap days that there would never be a Passover twice in the same year in any of the Roman calendars; so this accusation is patenly false.
- That Jesus provided a 'different way'. Jesus followed the command of the Scriptures and celebrated the Passover with His disciples three distinct times during His ministry as recorded by the Gospels. There is no suggestion by Jesus (or any of the New Covenant writers, for that matter) that Christians should abandon the practice of Passover.
- That the Jews are 'father-killers' who alone (implied in the text) slew their Lord. This horrendous accusation would later be regurgitated over and over again by the monsters of history as an excuse to commit genocide against the Jewish people. The Scriptures are clear that Jesus laid down His life willingly as a fulfillment of prophecy to atone for all the sins of mankind for the benefit of all mankind.
- That the practice of Easter was virtually unanimous throughout the church anyway, and that Jesus wanted His church to be unified; in fact, we have a sacred obligation to unify on the principles of common sense and anti-Judaism. This appeals to the Greco-Roman concept of democracy, where whatever the majority says must be true. To the contrary, the Bible declares that whatever God says is true, even if no one accepts it; Jesus did indeed pray for the church to be unified, but not in adopting anti-Biblical practice based on idolatry! Furthermore, the Eastern part of the Empire, as well as Christianity within the Persian Empire, had continued to practice the Biblical Passover, so this was not such a homogenous practice as the Emperor implied.
- That this decision represents intelligence, common sense, and good character; and one is irreverent if they disagree. Well, what can you say to that? No one wants to be thought of in these ways! This low blow, cheap shot, emotional appeal is political maneuvering at its best.
Absurdly, in addition to all of this, the entire argument made at the Council of Nicaea was a moot point. The death and resurrection of Jesus fulfill two different Jewish Feasts: Passover and Firstfruits respectively; so they were attempting to equate the resurrection of Jesus with the wrong festival. (Good Friday is the closest equivalent of Passover).
Passover is calculated at fourteen days after the new moon which begins the Biblical month of Abib (in the Hebrew calendar this is today called Nisan). Firstfruits is then the day after the Shabbat that falls after the Passover (so this is always on a Sunday). By the church's decree, Easter is calculated to be the Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. (Good Friday is then the Friday directly before Easter.) Ironically, if they had chosen to equate the resurrection with Firstfruits instead of the Passover, and had simply followed the Biblical Jewish computation, 98 times out of 100, Firstfruits and the church's formula for Easter fall on the same day anyway. The real issue is having to relate these things to the First Covenant revealed through the Jews: their anti-Jewish slant prevented them from seeing the truth about these matters.
What is very interesting about the Emperor's approach is that he is appealed to his constituency at all. As the Roman Emperor, he was an absolute ruler. His word was law, and he could have simply commanded his subjects to do as he said. However, he deftly perceived that three centuries of persecution had failed to quell the influence of Christianity; so rather than strong-arming the citizenry regarding this issue, he appealed to them instead. In order for the Roman Empire to be revived, Constantine needed the Christians to be on board; it was crucial for them to become Roman patriots.
As with most decisions made through political machinery, we will never know what occurred behind the scenes. Was the decision to abandon the Jewish calculation unanimous as declared by the Emperor in his letter, or was it made to be 'unanimous' by force? Whatever the case, the Emperor's tactic worked. The Christians across the Empire flocked to their new patron like flies on a dungheap. (After about 100 years, once the church became comfortable in its new relationship with the state, it began using the power of the emperorship as a weapon to club any minority opinions into submission.) It could be said, however, that the Council of Nicaea was the instrument that delayed the collapse of the Western Roman Empire for nearly 150 years. Furthermore, the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity, though somewhat questionable in its language as codified by the Council, became the standard for Christian theology--as it should have been.
As for Constantine, our illustrious, golden-tongued Emperor who won the hearts of the Christian Church so long ago, he went on to perform such charitable work as the murder of his second wife, Fausta, by suffocating her in an overheated bath, and the execution of his eldest son, Crispus, by poisoning.
So what should we do with this information? As people who want to follow the LORD in truth, do we have a responsibilty to change our behavior with regard to this time of the year? Exodus 23:13 declares,
“Be careful to do everything I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips."
It is no wonder the Jews believe that Christians are completely apostate: we proclaim the Jewish Messiah with an anti-Jewish campaign to divorce His resurrection from the Jewish calendar, instead uniting it to a pagan festival called by the name of a foreign fertility goddess. Instead of celebrating His death with a lamb, the symbol of the Feast of Passover, and His resurrection with grain as the acceptable Firstfruits offering, we instead consume the most unclean animal we can find (a pig) and hunt for eggs, the Babylonian fertility symbol. Then somehow we are confused as to why the Jews are hesitant to accept the good news.
Whatever people do is between them and God alone; I can only judge what the Scriptures have said. Personally speaking, I have abandoned the practice of Easter in favor of the Biblical, Levitical Feasts of Passover and Firstfruits. Fortunately, this was a fairly easy switch for me, unlike Christmas. Some Christians have advocated celebrating the Passover on Maundy Thursday (The Last Supper) or Good Friday; this sounds like a good idea except for the fact that God has warned us in the Scriptures not to change His 'appointed times' (the Levitical Feasts of Leviticus 23). While it is true that on the week of Jesus' death, Passover occurred from Thursday night to Friday at sundown, and Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday morning, the calculation of Passover allows it to occur on any day of the week. I celebrate the Biblical Passover with my family each year on the day of its occurence. I then acknowledge in memoriam what happened on the original Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, followed by a celebration of Jesus' resurrection on Sunday. I do not call this day 'Easter', but rather 'Resurrection Sunday' as many Christians are lately in the habit of doing. My family has stopped eating ham, receiving Easter baskets, and participating in Easter egg hunts on this day. My goal is to establish a 'love feast' where the Firstfruits of our income are used to bless the congregation and community in honor of Jesus' resurrection.
So, now you know the story. I pray that it brings us to a better understanding of the Biblical practice of our faith, and away from the traditions and superstitions of men. One thing we can agree on; He is risen--He is risen indeed!