These three questions relate to Easter: (1) My friend tells me that the KJV translates the word ‘Passover’ wrongly as ‘Easter’ in Acts 12:4; and that Matthew Henry supports his contention. Is that true? (2) We know that Christ could not possibly have been born on 25 December, what about the day of the Lord’s resurrection; does it accurately fall on the Easter Sunday which is celebrated by most churches today? (3) What is the origin of Easter Eggs and Easter Bunnies?
Firstly, your friend is right that ‘Easter’ in Acts 12:4 may be more correctly rendered as ‘Passover.’ The Greek pavsca (pascha) does refer to the Passover and it is so translated in all other 26 occurrences in the KJV. Your friend is also right that Matthew Henry supports his point. Henry writes that "it ought to be so read, for it is the same word that is always so rendered; and to insinuate the introducing of a gospel-feast, instead of the passover, when we have nothing in the New Testament of such a thing, is to mingle Judaism with our Christianity." I would, however, hesitate to say that the KJV is therefore wrong. The word ‘Easter’ was probably derived from the name of an obscure Germanic goddess of spring (Eastre), to whom sacrifices were offered about the time of the Passover by the pagan Saxons. As the date of the festival of Eastre was commonly known to the Anglo-Saxons, the early English versions frequently used the name to refer to the time of the paschal feast. The 1534 translation of the New Testament by William Tyndale, for example, translates pavsca consistently as ‘Easter’, even in verses such as 1 Cor 5:7, where Christ is called "our Easter Lamb." By and by, in common speech, the word ‘Easter’ came to refer to the resurrection of Christ, because it occurred at the time of the Passover—just as most Christians today refer to the Lord’s Day as ‘Sunday’ though the word ‘Sunday’ has its origin in Sun-worship. When the KJV was formed in 1611, the word ‘passover’ was used in all passages in which pavsca occurs, except in Acts 12:4. No one is exactly sure why this was the case.
Secondly, whether the date of the Resurrection accurately falls on the movable Easter Sunday each year is open to much dispute. The Jewish Passover occurs on the 14th day of Nissan, this date according to our Gregorian calendar can be on any day of the week each year. The current date for Easter was determined during the council of Nicaea in AD 325, under the patronage of Emperor Constantine. The council decided that the Resurrection be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox of March 21. Easter, as such, can come as early as March 22 or as late as April 25. Moreover, the Eastern Orthodox Church, which is still using the old Julian Calendar, celebrates Easter on a day that can be as much as 5 weeks at variance with the Roman Catholic & Protestant Easter. However, most who celebrate Easter does not really bother with the accuracy of the date whatever might have been the formula of Nicaea. For us, the day for celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord is given in Psalm 118:22-24, "The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the LORD's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." When we gather each week to worship we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord. This date cannot be wrong as it is sanctioned by the Word of God.
Thirdly, there are numerous stories pertaining to the origin of the Easter Egg and Easter Bunny. Apparently, eggs were commonly regarded in ancient pagan cultures as symbols of continuing life and resurrection. As such, eggs were exchanged as gifts at the spring festivals of the ancient Persians and Greeks to celebrate the revival of nature after the winter. To the early pagans converted to Christianity under Emperor Constantine's rule, eggs seemed the obvious symbols of the Lord's resurrection and were therefore considered appropriate gifts at Easter time. The origin of the Easter Bunny or more accurately ‘hare’ is even more overtly pagan. The hare was sacred to the Spring-Goddess, Eastre. Hares were sacrificed to her. The hare was an emblem of fertility, renewal, and return of spring to the heathen. Christian ought to have nothing to do with these Pagan symbols which were no where appointed by God for His Church.
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