Should Christians Celebrate Easter?
Is the celebration of Easter, Biblical? This article explores the fundamental fallacies that surround the modern celebration of Easter, and examines the unbiblical nature of Easter practices and traditions through an analysis of both Bible doctrines and verses.
To be clear, this article is not an attempt to diminish the importance of Christ’s Resurrection, nor is it an attempt to criticize Christianity or the Church for its current practices. The sole purpose of this article is to explore the fundamental fallacies that exist with the celebration of Easter and to demonstrate how its celebration is not supported by the Bible or the Lord Jesus Christ’s teachings. As with any article on Biblical matters, individuals should never take the word of this author (or others) as fact, but should always peruse the Bible themselves for both truth and assurance. In doing so, it is this author’s hope that you will be better informed of the Scriptural passages (and reasoning) behind why this holiday is false in the eyes of God.
Did Christ Really Die on Friday? (Good Friday)
One of the first issues concerning the celebration of Easter is the belief that Christ died on a Friday (Good Friday). However, if one examines Scripture, it is clear that Christ died on a Wednesday. Matthew 12:40 illustrates Christ’s prophecy concerning his death, burial, and Resurrection. In the verse, Christ states: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
If Christ had died on a Friday and arose from the dead on Sunday (as believed in many churches), then Christ’s prophecy is false given that only two days exist between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning. Some scholars have argued that partial days can be considered a “day.” However, Jesus himself defined what constituted a full day in John 11:9. In the verse, Jesus states: “…are there not twelve hours in a day?” If there are twelve hours in a day, then it can easily be implied that there are twelve hours in a night as well. Three days and three nights, therefore, are nothing short of 72 hours according to both a Biblical and scientific understanding of solar days.
Was the Resurrection on a Sunday?
Another misconception about Christ’s Resurrection is the belief that Christ arose from the grave on a Sunday. However, this is simply not the case as Matthew 28:1-2, 5-6 states that Christ arose on the Sabbath. As it states: “In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. And the angel…said unto the women…I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is RISEN.”
Contrary to modern-day Christian beliefs, the Sabbath has never been on Sunday. As the book of Genesis teaches us, God rested on the seventh day after His creation of the world, which became the Sabbath. The seventh day of the week, however, is not Sunday, but rather Saturday. Examine any western calendar and you will observe that Sunday is always listed as the first day of the week.
It is also important to note three separate things about this verse in Matthew. For one, the women visited Jesus’ tomb very late on the Sabbath (Saturday), just as Sunday was beginning to near. Second, by the time they had arrived at the tomb, Jesus was already gone. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it is crucial to note that Jewish days always began at sundown at approximately six o’clock in the evening, compared to the western world which observes the start of a new day at midnight. When we take each of these factors into account, three days and three nights in the tomb (or seventy-two hours) would indicate that Jesus died on a Wednesday, and was placed in the tomb near six o’clock in the evening, thus, fulfilling the prophecy of Matthew 12:40 (the sign of Jonah).
When Did Christ Die?
Now that it has been established that Christ did not die on a Friday, but rather a Wednesday, at what time of the year was He crucified? According to John 19:31, Christ was crucified on the “Day of Preparation,” or the preparation day for the “Jewish Passover.” As it states: “The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.” According to Jewish customs, the Passover always begins on the fourteenth day of the Jewish month, Nisan (according to Leviticus 23:5). The day that follows (the fifteenth) was always referred to as the “High Day Sabbath,” which was an annual Passover Sabbath that was observed in addition to the weekly Seventh Day Sabbath. As Leviticus 23:5-7 states: “In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’S Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD; seven days ye must eat unleavened bread. In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.” This fifteenth day, therefore, was always a Sabbath regardless of which day of the week it fell upon. And according to these scriptural passages it is clear that Christ was crucified on the day preceding “High Day Sabbath” (Wednesday the fourteenth).
If we are to follow these passages, it is clear that Jesus ate the Passover during the first hours of Wednesday, just after six o’clock (Tuesday night, according to western concepts of time), where he then proceeded to the Garden, was arrested, tried, and crucified all on the same day (Wednesday). Because Christ was crucified during the Jewish month of Nisan, it is clear that He died during the month of April (the equivalent of Nisan).
What Time of the Day Did Christ Die?
After establishing that Christ died on a Wednesday, another important thing to note about his crucifixion is that it was performed around three o’clock in the afternoon. According to Luke 23:44, 46: “And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.” The ninth hour, here, refers to nine hours since the break of day. If sunrise occurred at six o’clock in the morning, the ninth hour is indicative of three in the afternoon. This would, in turn, allow Christ to have been buried in the tomb before the end of Wednesday. Why is all of this important to understand, you may ask? Understanding the exact time of Christ’s death helps us to pinpoint and prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Christ was not crucified on a Friday. Nor did he rise from the grave on a Sunday as commonly practiced in Easter traditions.
Easter is Not Mentioned in the Bible
Another problem concerning the celebration of Easter is the fact that it is not in the Bible. The word “Easter” (or its equivalents) appear in the Bible only once in Acts 12:4. When taken into context, however, the use of the word “Easter” in this verse refers only to the Passover. No directions or guidance are ever given in regard to the celebration or necessity of a Easter holiday. Nor does God ever furnish the Church with specific directions on how to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. We are only told how to worship, and to observe the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of Jesus. According to 2 Timothy 3:16-17, the Bible states: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction of righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” In other words, the Bible thoroughly furnishes us with all of the necessary doctrines and teachings that we require. Had the celebration of Easter been a crucial element of the Christian life, don’t you think it would have been included in the Bible?
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction of righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
— 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (KJV)
Easter’s Pagan Origins
In addition to the fact that Easter appears nowhere in the Bible, the celebration of Easter is also rooted in pagan traditions spanning thousands of years before the birth of Christ. According to history.com, the name “Easter” is derived from the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre, who was the goddess of light and spring (www.history.com).
Easter can also be traced back to the days of the Babylonians, Phoenicians, and Chaldeans. These groups celebrated Easter as a spring festival in honor of the goddess Astarte or Ishtar, the goddess of spring and rebirth (Halff, 6). According to historian Alexander Hislop, Easter “is not a Christian name,” and bears Chaldean origins (Halff, 6).
Easter (Ishtar) also served as a mythological creature of the Babylonian religion, and was believed to have had rabbits that laid eggs of various colors. Eggs represented a new life, whereas the colored eggs symbolized wishes “for a bright new year ahead” (Halff, 6). According to Dr. Charles Halff, both the rabbit and eggs are symbolic of fertility and sex, respectively (Halff, 6). Every time you hide brightly colored Easter eggs, therefore, you are celebrating an ancient practice of pagan civilizations.
Easter “Sunrise Services”
In addition to the pagan origins of the Easter Bunny and eggs, Easter sunrise services are also unbiblical given that they are a form of idolatry. In fact, the Bible clearly warns about the observance of these forms of service in Ezekiel 8:15-16, 18. In these verses, the Bible states: “… turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these. And he brought me into the inner court of the LORD’S house, and behold, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east: and they worshipped the sun toward the east…and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them.”
In this example, God is specifically condemning the children of Israel for performing sunrise services due to the fact that it is a form of idolatry. He even states that it is a great abomination. Why is this the case? By looking to the east and awaiting the approach of the Sun above the horizon, more focus and attention is devoted to the Sun’s movement than the worship service taking place. Yet, despite this, thousands of Christians across the world participate in sunrise services every year. Sunrise services are also closely linked to pagan traditions that occurred on Easter morning, in which they believed that the Sun was dancing for joy as it ascended above the horizon (Halff, 6). When individuals attend such services, they are unknowingly reenacting the worship of pagan goddesses (Halff, 6).
The Observance of Days is Forbidden in the Bible
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the celebration of Easter remains unbiblical due to the fact that God strictly forbids Christians to observe certain days above others. In Galatians 4:10-11, the Bible states: “Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.” God is greatly displeased when His followers observe certain days with higher esteem than others because they represent a form of idolatry. Moreover, why should Christians only celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ once a year? His Resurrection is an event that should be celebrated 365 days a year, 24/7, as His ascent from the grave is what gives Christians across the globe salvation. This was a momentous event that should be at the cornerstone of Christian beliefs at all times, and not only one Sunday service a year.
In closing, the celebration of Easter is full of traditions, customs, and beliefs that have been practiced by Christians for centuries. Yet, as we have seen, none of these traditions are based upon Biblical teachings. Instead, many of these traditions formed the backbone of pagan rituals of civilizations that preceded the birth of Christ by millennia. Understanding these truths are crucial for Christians to understand, particularly as churches make it appear as though the celebration of Easter is a commandment from God. If we observe scriptural teachings, however, nothing could be farther from the truth. If anything, these practices and traditions only serve to displease God. Knowing the truth, therefore, is essential for all Christians in their relationship to Christ. As John 8:32 states, most eloquently: “ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
Larry Slawson received his Masters Degree at UNC Charlotte. He specializes in Russian and Ukrainian History.