What's Wrong with Easter?
by Lonnie Lane
Passover and Easter are a month apart this year, 2008. The next time Easter will be this early (March 23) will be the year 2228, 220 years from now. It will fall on March 22, 2285, which is 277 years from now. The last time it was this early was in 1913, so unless you're 95 or older, you weren't here for that date. But how can it be that if Yeshua died on Passover, that the dates of Passover and Easter can be so far apart? We will see as the story goes on.
If you are reading this website, you are undoubtedly aware that Easter is a "derivative" of Passover. You know that Yeshua is the Passover Lamb of God who died on the 14th of Nissan, the day that God told the Hebrews to commemorate their deliverance from Egypt by His mighty Hand. You no doubt are fully aware that not just Yeshua and the disciples celebrated the Passover, but the early Believers continued to do so, now with far greater, even sublime understanding of Yeshua's deliverance from the power of sin - a force far greater than Egypt.
As Gentiles began to come to faith in Yeshua, about 15 years after His death and resurrection, they too were keeping the Passover with the Hebrews, participating in synagogue worship and Torah study. (See Acts 15:21.)
When the Romans destroyed the Hebrew Temple in Jerusalem in AD 70 and its citizens, including the Believers, were thrust into the world, they shared their faith in Yeshua with the Gentiles they came to know. As more and more Gentiles came into the faith (now without knowledge or understanding of Torah and Hebrew ways), they began to see things differently. Animosity for the Hebrews was growing in the church.
“Salvation is of the Jews”
- John 4:22
Let's remember that it is not just people alone that make these kinds of decisions, but there is an adversary of God (ha satan, in Hebrew) who is able to influence men's hearts toward evil. Yeshua Himself has said, "salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22), so it's always the devil's plan and purpose to discredit the Jews and remove the church as far from them as possible. If he can keep the people who call themselves Believers in Yeshua away from the Jews, he can weaken the church and actually keep many from salvation because of their distorted concept of salvation. That's exactly what happened when Constantine institutionalized the church in the 4th Century and at the same time, took a stand against the Jews.
One early issue became a heated debate that went on for a long time between those who wished to celebrate the resurrection on the date of Passover and those who wanted no part of the Hebrews and anything connected with them. The eastern churches of Syria, Cilicia and Mesopotamia wanted to keep to the 14th of Nissan date. But those of Alexandria and Rome wanted to make sure that the "Christian Passover," that is, the celebration of the Resurrection, never coincided with the Jewish observance of Passover and decided to celebrate it instead on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox, completely independent of the Hebrew calendar which, incidentally, God Himself had set in place. The motive clearly was their opposition to Judaism.
When the emperor Constantine had his epiphany and took the giant leap to make Christianity the State religion, he changed the entire premise of the church. The format, the venue, the leadership structure, the purpose, the vision, the images of Messiah Himself, and their relationship with the Hebrews - of which Yeshua was one -- all took a radical departure, not only from its foundation, but from the truth.
Take a read through some of what Constantine has written:
Constantine further barred the Jews from their beloved Jerusalem except on the anniversary of the Second Temple's destruction and then only upon paying a special tax in silver. The Jews actually had much more freedom under pagan rulership than when the Church became the State religion. It is ironic (surely there must be a more apt word for such a treachery) that the church thought itself justified in separating from the people whom God used to bring the Messiah into the world. Yet, Yeshua emphatically stated, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Torah or the prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill...Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven..." (Matthew 5:17).
While Torah scrolls may have been rare to the Gentiles, surely at least some of the early church leaders must have had them. We can only conclude that Constantine and many of the church leaders did not seem to understand that Jesus died for all men's sins, including their own and those of the Jews. They did not understand that Yeshua "gave his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:25) which included all men, and "to the Jews first"! (Rom.1:16). And surely they did not understand God's heart for Israel. When one does not read the Tenach (the entire Old Covenant), one does not know the commitment and the promises of God toward Israel. God is not a liar; neither does He abandon His covenant promises. If He would forsake Israel, then how can we depend on Him to overlook our own sins? But Constantine and his cronies didn't see this. They evidently weren't aware of God's heart for Israel. Seems to me they were preaching another gospel, which Paul sternly warned against. (See 2 Cor. 11:4.)
While Constantine and his followers were removing all things Jewish from the church, they were adding in what the Torah would have warned them against and protected them from had they allowed it to be part of their worship experience. But they didn't and so the reasoning was, in order to satisfy both the Christians and the pagans, why not combine the two so everyone will be happy? That was the idea behind not only moving the date, but it made way for what we now call Easter rather than Passover. The roots of the Easter celebration date long before Yeshua's life, death and resurrection. Further back, in fact, than the Exodus. Waaaay back to Nimrod.
The story goes like this: Nimrod was the grandson of one of Noah's son named Ham. You remember him -- he built the tower of Babel in Genesis 10. It says of him that he was a mighty hunter (10:8-10), which did not mean he was a good provider of food for his family, but that he was a powerful and evil man who killed other men. He was known as a god-man. His mother, Semiramis, who was also -- get this -- his wife, became the powerful Queen of Babylon and eventually was recognized as the Queen of heaven.
Nimrod eventually met his match and was killed by an enemy and his body cut in pieces and sent to various parts of his kingdom. Semiramis somehow managed to gather all the parts, except for one part that remained missing. Without it, she claimed, he could not come back to life so Semiramis told the people that Nimrod had ascended to the sun and was now to be called "Ba'al," the sun god. She claimed he would be present on earth in a fire lit lamp (no electricity then remember) or candle flame when used in worship. Hence the use of candles in worship.
What she was doing was creating a mystery religion, no doubt under the "inspiration" of satan, with Semiramis herself as the goddess, claiming also that she herself was immaculately conceived. Semiramis further claimed that she came down from the moon in a giant moon egg that fell into the Euphrates River, which was to have happened at the time of the first full moon after the spring equinox. The equinox is the two times a year when the sun crosses the equator and day and night are equal length everywhere, around March 21 and September 23. It also is said to have to do with the celestial sphere, which is of significance if you're developing a mystery religion.
At some point, Semiramis' name changed and she became known as "Ishtar" which can be pronounced "Easter." While the language was not Hebrew, it still serves to illustrate how the name might have come to be Easter. The symbol in Hebrew for an "s" is the same as for "sh", and an "i" is pronounced like our "ee" making it "eeshtar" or "Easter."
It just so happens that Ishtar quite mysteriously became pregnant, claiming that it was the rays of the sun-god Ba'al that caused her to conceive. And so she brought forth a son and named him Tammuz. As an adult he was rather fond of rabbits, likely related to their reproductive prowess as a sexual symbol, and they became sacred in their religion, rabbits now having risen to the status of being worthy of worship. Tammuz, who became a hunter like his father, as luck would have it, was killed by a wild pig. Ishtar told the people that Tammuz had now ascended to his father, Ba'al, and that the two of them would be with the worshippers in the sacred candle flame as father and son.
Queen Ishtar, now known as the "Mother of God" (Note: Mary was proclaimed to be the "Mother of God" in AD 600) and the "Queen of Heaven," continued to build her mystery religion by telling the people that when Tammuz was killed by the wild pig, some of his blood fell on a stump of an evergreen tree, and the stump grew into a full new tree overnight. This made the evergreen tree sacred by the blood of Tammuz. She also proclaimed a forty-day period of time of sorrow each year prior to the anniversary of Tammuz's death, during which time no meat was to be eaten. Worshippers were to meditate upon the sacred mysteries of Ba'al and Tammuz, and to make the sign of the "T" in front of their hearts as they worshipped.
Perhaps some of this is ringing a bell for you. Tammuz, you may recall, was worshipped by Israel resulting in God's great displeasure and wrath (Ezek. 8:13-15). Pagan worship in Israel was often connected with trees, especially on high hills (Deut. 12:2). The evergreen tree does bring up the image of a Christmas tree. Making the sign of the "T" across one's heart, sounds much like "crossing oneself" as the Catholic practice of making the sign of the cross. They also ate sacred cakes with the mark of a "T" or cross on the top, which sure sounds a lot like the "hot cross buns" eaten at Easter.
The celebration takes place on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. Sound familiar? That's when Easter is celebrated. It was Ishtar's Sunday and it was celebrated with rabbits and eggs, both fertility (e.g. sex) symbols. And because Tammuz was killed by a pig, she proclaimed that a pig must be eaten on that Sunday. Therefore, the Easter ham. (It may have been her way of bringing revenge on the pig. Who knows?) Furthermore, Ba'al worshippers would rise on Ishtar's day and face the rising sun in the east to honor Ba'al, who is also satan in reality.
Ishtar has other names. I found no less than thirty-four of them. Some deities started out on their own but were assimilated or merged into Ishtar. Asherah (plural is Asherim) and related titles are idols or statues of her and in the Old Covenant are considered an abomination to God. Her influence persisted for centuries, with a temple built to her in 550 BC. If you've seen pictures of a great gate in Babylon, it is the Gate of Ishtar. Other images of her have survived. You may have seen representations of the ancient "dog god" that assimilated into Ishtar worship. She is also seen standing on a lion which was her holy animal. She is also pictured as wearing a Zodiac belt, being queen of the stars.
Ishtar is the mother apparently of other gods besides Ba'al. Without going into it, worship associated with Ishtar and lesser female deities always involved temple prostitution, sometimes both male and female, and sexual activities we won't mention here. Wherever you find pagan worship, you find gross sexual practices; they go together which is not surprising when you consider that satan seeks to influence us through our fleshly desires, an apple being the first instance. The Canaanites adopted these same female deities, carving wood figures of them from evergreen trees into fertility gods of the spring equinox, signifying the beginning of living things growing for the summer season. She is often associated with Spring rites in various countries even centuries later, though often with another name.
On the first Sunday of the equinox, the Canaanite families would face east and wait for the rising of the sun, which was the symbol of the sun god Ba'al. Later in the day the children would go and hunt for eggs, which were symbolic of sex, fertility and new life. Rabbits were also a part of their festivities which were symbolic of lust, sexual prowess and reproduction. The Canaanites worshipped rabbits as deities as did the Egyptians and Persians (Babylonians). Decorating the eggs came about in the Middle Ages by the Anglo-Saxons to honor their pagan gods and were often presented as gifts to other families to bring them fertility and "sexual success" in the coming year.
So as you can see, the roots of Easter have nothing to do with Passover or the death, burial and resurrection of Messiah Yeshua. The two were made one when in fact they are antithetic to one another. Yeshua's death and resurrections should be observed indeed and with great reverence and joy, but on the day God ordained for it.
When we consider how God's wrath came upon Israel for their idolatry, it might be easy today to think that God has adjusted Himself to our paganism since it doesn't appear that He's exhibiting any wrath toward the church for the participation in things pagan. Granted, most of us have done so unknowingly, but you who have just read this article can't say that anymore. We who are truly Yeshua's are under His blood and forgiven. However, the quality of our relationship with Him is greatly affected by our walk with Him, whether we walk in holiness and sanctification or we choose not to. The quality of the entire church's relationship with God has not, on the whole, been what it was in the beginning since men began to separate away from the Jews and the Torah God gave them. It correlates precisely. Withdraw from the Jews and the Torah God gave them and the Holy Spirit withdraws from the church. Even today most of us are living a diluted gospel life compared to the Acts of the Apostles.
But doesn't it make sense that for us to recant the false and embrace the Biblical truth we will touch God's heart with our quest for Him and Him alone? Perhaps this will be the very things that will cause Him to return to us what our first century brothers and sisters were walking in -- the love, power and glory of the Holy Spirit that changed the world around them. I'm counting on it.
Will you pray with me? Abba, in Yeshua's name, we pray that as we divest ourselves of error, doing away with the diluted and polluted ideas of life as a Believer which keep us in heresy, that more and more Believers will seek to align their lives of faith with Biblical principles and Your ways, that You will restore the purity, power and purpose to Your people today, that we might once again truly function as Your Body in the earth. Lord, may it be said of us who are living by Your Spirit, "....many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord....(and) the people held them in high esteem. And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number" (Acts 5:12-14). Lord, hear our prayer!!!
Reprints of this article is permitted but must include: Reprinted by permission of Messianic Vision, www.sidroth.org, 2008
Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif. All rights reserved. Used by permission.