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Is Celebrating Easter Pagan?

THE GOSPEL TRUTH

Rain on Your Easter Parade

By David A. Ingraham

 

The preacher greeted his Easter morning crowd with a cheerful,”Merry Christmas!” When the twittering and chuckling finally settled, he explained that since he would not see many of today’s flock again until next Easter, he wanted to give them a holiday greeting in advance.

Although its commercial value pales in comparison to Christmas, Easter is the most important holiday on the church calendar. Attendance is traditionally higher on Easter Sunday than on any other day. Sermons and lessons on the resurrection of Christ abound and in many churches, the Gospel of Jesus Christ emanates from the pulpit to ears that may not hear it again until next year.

Easter bonnets, Easter bunnies, Easter lilies, Easter eggs, baby chickens, and hot cross buns all lend their ornamentation to the day when Christendom celebrates the resurrection of Christ. Nothing is so central to Church doctrine than the event thus celebrated: “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain….And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (1 Cor. 15;14,17)

So what is the connection between the foregoing ornaments of Easter such as rabbits, buns, and eggs, and the resurrection of our Lord? The answer to that question may rain upon your Easter parade.

Easter In Babylon

The first hint of something amiss is the word “Easter.” Almost any resource material will cite a Teutonic goddess by a similar name, “Eostre” or “Eastre.”

“Eostre was the deity of both the dawn and spring, and ‘the pagan symbol of fertility.’ At her festival in April, sacred fires were lighted on the hills, especially in the Nordic lands. (At this same season, ancient Romans observed the Feast of the Vernal Equinox).” (Krythe, 98)

Further investigation of this Teutonic name traces it back to Ostera, then Astarte, then to Ishtar (once pronounced as we do “Easter”). Since Ishtar, whose alternate name is Semiramis, was the wife of Nimrod, the priest and king of Babylon, we can trace a direct line between the word “Easter” and the origins of pagan religion.

According to legend, when Nimrod died, he proceeded to become the Sun-god while Semiramis (Easter) proceeded to have an illegitimate son named Tammuz, whom she claimed was the son of her deified Nimrod. She apparently claimed Tammuz was the promised seed of the woman (Gen.3:15) and demanded worship for both herself as well as Tammuz. With only slight effort one can imagine that the mother soon was worshipped as much or more than her bastard son. Tammuz was later symbolized by a golden calf as the son of the Sun-god, Nimrod (Woodrow, 9-10; Exod.32:1 -6). Moreover, when we discover where and how the blessed Mother originated, the plot both thickens and worsens!

As the legend continues, an egg of wondrous size fell from heaven one day and landed in the Euphrates River. Some equally wondrous fishes managed to roll the egg to shore whereupon several doves descended from heaven and incubated the remarkable find. Soon, out popped Ishtar (or Semiramis), the goddess of Easter. The egg eventually became the universal-symbol for fertility, and as such, can be traced in pagan cultures worldwide (Woodrow, 153). Predictably, it also became the symbol of the goddess herself.

Therefore, at the very least, we have traced both the name “Easter” and an element of its celebration, the “Ishtar Egg,” to Babylon. Most significantly, both the egg and its hatchling predate the resurrection of Christ by more than two thousand years, eliminating any possible connection among eggs, Easter and Jesus.

During that two thousand years, Babylonian paganism spread world-wide. It was of this heathen religious system that the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 1:21-23: “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.”

This religion became the diabolical substitute for biblical Truth. Satan cleverly counterfeited Truth with an insidious lie, perverting the minds and cultures of men who suppressed the truth in unrighteousness. Then, Just as Truth personified in Jesus became both knowable and known, the Deceiver wedded Babylonian paganism to the church. The church synchronized the celebration of Easter with the resurrection of Christ.

Babylonian folklore claimed that Tammuz was worshipped during the spring. However after he was slain, his mother (Easter) so wept that he came alive again. The manifestation of his “resurrected” life was the arrival of vegetation in the spring. When Jesus arose in the spring following His crucifixion, logic seemed to dictate a connection between the ignominious fable and the glorious fact. Then, when the church later desired to become popular with both pagan and saint, it amalgamated the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection with the fertility rites, eggs, and other accoutrements of a pagan holiday. After all, Easter celebrated the arrival of spring, the resurrection of life from the dead of winter. What could be more appropriate?

Easter In the Early Church

Early Christians celebrated Resurrection Day on the same day as the Jewish Passover, regardless of the day of the week on which it fell. However, when Gentiles became prominent in the early church, they required the celebration to fall on Sunday. A major conflict ensued contributing to the rift between the Eastern and Western branches of the church.

“The Emperor Constantine called the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. The question of the date of Easter was one of its main concerns. The council decided that Easter should fall on Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox. The astronomically astute Alexandrians were given the job of computing the date.

“Additional difficulties were overcome when March 21 was chosen as the date of the vernal equinox…

“The dating of Easter today follows the Nicaean reckoning. The Eastern Orthodox Church stipulates in addition that Easter must fall after Passover” (Myers, 102-103).

Because the Eastem Orthodox Church continues to use the Julian calendar for religious holidays, rather than the Gregorian calendar used in our Western culture, it celebrates Easter thirteen days later than Roman churches and other Western churches. The Roman Church developed a high Mass for celebrating the resurrection of Christ, but attached to it much of the paganism of the spring festival.

Included in this package was the forty day season of fasting known as “Lent,” adopted by Rome during the sixth century. lt corresponds to a forty day fast practiced by ancient Egyptians. Others identify Lent with a practice among Babylonian worshippers of Semiramis. The death and resurrection of Tammuz was celebrated by a great annual festival preceded by a Lenten fast (Tardo, 13-14).

For the next thousand years of Western history, little changed within Catholicism. Only with the Reformation came changes in Easter celebrations as Protestantism grew in size and influence.

Easter In America

By the time Puritans came from England to America they had dropped the celebration of holy days such as Christmas and Easter, Their influence limited all such celebrations in the colonies. Only after the Civil War did Easter services become prominent again in America. “Perhaps it was the deep scars of death and destruction which led people back to the Easter season. The story of the Resurrection was a logical inspiration of renewed hope for all those bereaved by the war” (Myers, 104).

Meanwhile, isolated pockets of celebrants continued to recognize Easter in America. In 1741 Moravian believers began a long-standing custom of sunrise services complete with trombone, choir, and singers. In California in 1770 Father Crespi, a Franciscan monk, celebrated an Easter sunrise service under the Cathedral Oak, marked today by an historical plaque. Theodore Roosevelt held a well-known sunrise service on Mount Rubidoux in California in 1909, and the Hollywood Bowl became host to the annual sunrise event in 1921. In the Wichita mountains of Oklahoma the Passion Play, six hours in length begins at midnight of Easter morning. One hundred thousand people annually attend the play (Myers, 107).

Easter Ornaments

Originating in paganism, propagated by a faltering church, then traditionalized by a burgeoning American continent, Easter eventually became firmly entrenched in the culture of the United States. With it came its pagan embellishments. Most Americans embrace these ornamentations of the season without questioning their religious significance. When confronted, some find the exposure of their error both intrusive and offensive; others become incensed by their own negligence in adopting such heathen trappings.

Perhaps the most common ornament of Easter is the brightly-colored, hard-boiled egg. Given its previously cited Babylonian origins, the Easter egg’s rise in significance and popularity over the millennia is not surprising. “Eggs have become closely associated with Easter, and are regarded as a symbol of resurrection, for they hold the seeds of life, and represent the revival of fertility upon the earth. However, the egg as a life emblem is much older than Christianity” (Krythe, 103).

Cultures worldwide have myths describing how the universe originated from an egg. Among some peoples, the “Heavenly One” once inhabited an egg which he broke in pieces, creating the earth in the process. In another legend, an egg split in two with one half becoming gold, the other half silver. The gold elements became the sky, the silver elements became the earth. The outer membrane became the atmosphere, the veins became rivers, and the fluid became oceans (Myers, 110-111).

Egg painting may have originated in Persia and Egypt centuries ago. When the custom migrated into Europe, possibly by way of the Knights of the Crusades, egg decorating became an elaborate art.

“Often the eggs were dipped in red dye, but in Hungary there were more white ones with patterns of red flowers. Yugoslav people have usually marked their eggs with X V, standing for ‘Christ is risen…’

“Women and girls of Poland and the south of Russia always began working weeks ahead on eggs covered all over with designs. There would be lines that crisscrossed, tiny checkerboards, patterns of dots and plant and animal shapes. No two eggs were alike but the same symbols appeared again and again. A sun was for good luck, a hen or rooster to make wishes come true, a deer for good health, and flowers for love and beauty” (Barth, 28-29).

Eggs have been given as gifts, eaten for fertility purposes, rolled down hills, thrown into the air, used as marbles for play, hidden on church lawns and grounds, hung about the neck to ward off evil, and worshipped as a source of Life. No legitimate connection exists between any such practices and the resurrection of Christ from the dead.

Everybody knows that rabbits don’t lay eggs, but the relationship between those two Easter phenomena is indisputable. “To be perfectly correct, it is the hare, not the rabbit, who should be honored as the most famous secular Easter symbol…Easter is a movable feast dependent for its date on the phase of the moon, and from antiquity the hare has been a symbol for the moon; the rabbit has not. Hares are born with their eyes open, rabbits are born blind; the Egyptian name for the hare was Un, meaning ‘open’ or ‘to open,’ and the full moon watched open-eyes throughout the night. According to legend, the hare was thought never to blink or close its eyes…

The harlot of Revelation 17 symbolizes the religion of Babylon. She is nothing less than the moon goddess worshipped in ziggurats and towers of the ancient Middle East. Her name likely is Ishtar (Easter). To our disgrace, she has invaded and defiled what are purported to be celebrations of the resurrection of Christ. She does so through her ancient representatives, the Easter bunny and the Easter egg.

Associated with fertility and reproduction is the Easter lily. “The fragrant, waxy white flower we call the Eastern lily is not a spring flower or an American flower at all. A lily growing on islands near Japan was taken to Bermuda dn then traveled to the United States to become our most special Easter plant. Flower growers have learned how to make it bloom in time” (Barth, 51).

Tardo adds, “Having become symbolic of the season, churches [sic] worldwide decorate their altars with these beautiful flowers, and innumerable thousands of them are given away to women at Easter as gifts. Few, however, realize the ancient significance of such gifts! The so-called ‘Easter lily’ has long been revered by pagans of various lands as a holy symbol associated with the reproductive organs. It was considered a phallic symbol! One might easily surmise what was being suggested by sending a gift of such nature in ancient times” (Tardo, 11-12).

Even the sunrise services originates not in Christianity but in the pagan rites of spring. “Sunrise services are not unrelated to the Easter fires held on the tops of hills in continuation of the New Year fires, a worldwide observance in antiquity. Rites were performed at the vernal equinox welcoming the sun and its great power to bring new life to all growing things” (Myers, 105).

Although the hot cross bun is often associated with Good Friday, its real significance pertains to Easter. One of the stories remaining in tradition today relates the origin of this bun “…back to the ancient pagan custom of worshipping the Queen of Heaven with offerings of cakes marked with her image. It is said that the Egyptians made buns with two horns on them to offer to the moon goddess, and that the Greeks changed the symbol to a cross so the bun could be more easily divided. Anglo-Saxons marked theirs with a cross to honor the goddess of light” [emphasis mine] (Krythe, 94-95).

The Prophet Jeremiah apparently referred to this raisin cake: “The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger” (Jeremiah 7:18; see also 44:17-19, 25).

This Queen of Heaven’s name is Ishatar (Easter). Hot cross buns are a veiled ascription of worship to her. By consuming them we participate in pagan Babylonianism. Little wonder the Bible says to us: “…Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (Revelation 18:4)

The wearing of Easter finery, new clothing, and hats and the so-called Easter parade originated in heathenism. Easter fires are a leftover from spring rites. Ham for Easter is an English tradition expressing, of all things, bigotry toward Jews. Without exception, the ornaments of Easter are pagan in origin. Informed Christians who continue in these traditions and practices risk for themselves the consternation of God.

Scripture abounds with numerous references to the idolatry spawned in Babylon. It was worship of the Babylonian goddess that brought Israel to ruin. Later in biblical history, When Christians begin to mingle paganism with worship, the Apostle Paul addressed the matter in this way: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believed with an infidel?” (2 Cor. 6:14-15).

The most notable passage addressing this religious system is also the passage that connects its practices to the world in which we live today. Romans 1 describes the societal declension that results from removing the true God from His rightful place and prominence. Replacing the Truth of God with a lie always conveys predictable consequences. The sexual revolution and the decline of Western culture give us the spiritual signs of other times: “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen” (Rom. 1:24-25)

The creature of veneration today is man; humanism has made an idol of SELF. The most obvious expression of this occupation with self comes next: “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affection: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet” (Rom. 1:26-27).

The downward spiral of paganism reaches into the most vital of our culture carriers: education. And since the world no longer retains God in its education, the results speak for themselves: “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful; Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Rom. 1:28-32).

If you find yourself characterized in some way in the above passages of Scripture (and most of us DO, to some extent), please recognize that all of mankind has been tainted by this reprobate mind. The only institution of God given to overcome the slippery slope of paganism is the Church of Jesus Christ. The Church, however, finds itself in various levels of complicity with its pagan adversary depending on the extent to which it participates in what are undeniably pagan practices.

Furthermore, as individuals we must respond appropriately, to the light given us. Willful sin which follows such enlightenment makes the sinner even more culpable before God

The Bible teaches that sin and reprobation are universal problems Considering that the God of Scripture is holy and absolutely righteous, we each stand condensed before Him. It’s a condition only He could solve and only because He wanted to do so.

Nearly two thousand years ago God sent His Son, Jesus of Nazareth, born of a virgin and without sin, to die on a cross. He represented millions of people in His death; He even represented YOU! Because He didn’t deserve to die EVER, His death became the penalty paid for ALL our sin. He was the sacrificial Lamb of God, the innocent One slain on behalf of the guilty.

If you will simply identify with Him, claim the forgiveness He offers, and trust Him as Savior and Lord, you may this very moment receive Eternal Life. Bow your head and pray something like this: Lord Jesus, I recognize that as a sinner I need a Savior. I believe that when you died on the cross you died for me personally. Wash away my sins, give me your eternal life, and help me to be clean before God all the days of this life and in the life to come. Amen.

(The above information was published by GOSPEL TRUTH, April, 1993)

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