Many know little about it. Most don’t have a clue what the Bible says about it. So, here are a few questions for us to consider.
Doesn’t the Bible mention Easter somewhere? Everybody look in your Bibles at Acts 12:4. Does anyone read the word Easter there? If so, you are probably reading from the King James Version. Most translations read Passover. That is the proper translation of the word used here. In fact, everywhere else this word occurs in the New Testament, the King James Version translates it Passover. It is quite clear from the context that the Jewish Passover is in view, not some Christian holy day called Easter. Herod had just killed the apostle James. When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he arrested the apostle Peter. He would have killed him then but so not to offend the Jews he waited until after the feast of Passover (cf. Mark 14:1-2). He was not waiting until after Easter. He was an enemy of Christ and would have had no respect for an Easter celebration of Christ’s resurrection!
Many may be surprised to learn that the Bible does not mention Easter…not even once!
So where did it all start? The short answer is that nobody really knows for sure. Many believe that it all originated in Paganism. An English monk of the 8th century claimed that Easter came from the name of an Anglo Saxon goddess, Eostre, who was honored by a Spring festival. The problem is that this is the only record of her existence. It is impossible to substantiate his claim. Still, many have run with this and conjectured that rabbits and eggs, obvious Spring symbols of fertility and new life, were associated with this goddess and her festival.
Others have argued that it was the Christian observance of the Jewish Passover and Firstfruits that followed. Passover, rather than Easter, has been the term used by most European nations for this celebration. The Bible teaches that “Christ is our Passover” (1 Corinthians 5:7) and “risen from the dead has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). However, there is no mention of any Christian observance of the Passover in the Bible.
Whether the origins of Easter are from Paganism or from Judaism or a combination of the two, we cannot be certain. How did it become a holy day to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ? As has been noted, there is no annual celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ mentioned in the Bible. The first evidence for such a celebration begins to appear in the mid 2nd Century. There was a controversy over the date upon which it was to be celebrated that continues even today between those in the Eastern and the Western world, both using different calendars to calculate the date. It is clear that Easter is a tradition of man, not of God.
What does the Bible say about observing days, like Easter? First, we need to emphasize again that there is no mention of the observance of Easter in the Bible. No one is required by God to observe Easter.
Second, we need to know that salvation cannot be earned by the observance of such days. Some think that if they will come to church on Easter and Christmas that it will make up for their sins and they will be alright with God. The fact is that such thinking will actually cause one to lose his soul. This was what Paul was concerned about in his letter to the Galatians (Read Galatians 4:8-11). Paul was dealing with Gentiles who had become Christians. They had once observed days in honor of their gods. Now, some Jewish Christians required them to keep the days prescribed by the Law of Moses. But, Gentiles were never under the Law of Moses and all people, including the Jews, have been set free from the Law of Moses by the Gospel of Christ (Rom. 7:6). If they tried to earn their salvation by keeping days they would actually fall from grace and lose their souls (Read Gal. 5:1-7).
Third, we need to be careful not to judge others in regard to the keeping of such days (Read Rom. 14:4-6, 10-13, 18, 22). Both Jewish and Gentile Christians had been used to observing days. For some it would violate their conscience if they did not observe days; for others it would violate their conscience if they did observe days. It was a matter of conscience. So, they were not to be judged for observing days or for not observing days. Today, some Christians cannot observe Easter because they believe it has Pagan origins; other Christians have no qualms of conscience because any Pagan association with Easter has long been removed and “we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one” (1 Cor. 8:4). Some Christians cannot observe Easter because it is a mere tradition of man; other Christians realize that traditions may be expedient (1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23) as long as they do not cause us to “transgress the commandment of God” (Mat. 15:3). Some Christians must observe Easter because they believe that they should celebrate Christ’s resurrection on this day; other Christians do not observe Easter because they know that God has not commanded such an observance of this day. In all these things we must respect the conscience and not judge one another!
What does the Bible say about celebrating Christ’s resurrection? When we are baptized we celebrate the resurrection (Rom. 6:3-5; Col. 2:12; 1 Pet. 3:21). Baptism is the time and place we identify ourselves with the resurrection of Christ.
When we meet together on the first day of the week we celebrate the resurrection. Jesus was raised on the first day of the week (Mark 16:9). On that first Sunday of the resurrection He met with the assembled disciples (Luke 24:33, 36). The church of Christ had its beginning at Pentecost (Acts 2), which came fifty days after the Sabbath following the Passover and thus always fell on the first day of the week (Lev. 23). From that time till now Christians have come together on the first day of every week to celebrate the resurrection and worship the risen Lord (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2).
When we live for Jesus each day we celebrate the resurrection. We must demonstrate to the world that we are the people of the resurrection by the lives which we live (Rom. 6:4, 11). The tragedy is that many who profess to follow Christ are living as if He were still dead! Colossians 3:1-4 says that those who are “raised with Christ” must “seek those things which are above” because “Christ is our life”. It is not enough merely to believe that a man named Jesus was raised from the dead one Sunday morning twenty centuries ago! Our belief must make a practical difference in our lives: in our basic attitudes… in our values… in the way we treat others… in our daily conduct… (vv. 5ff). As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
Easter... Now, what will you do with what you have learned about it today?