By Nick Sayers
King James Version — And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.
New King James Version — So when he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after Passover.
The dominant strength of English
English has risen to become the dominant world language. Because most Christianised nations use English as their chief means of communication, for English-speaking believers, it is crucial to understand the history of our language accurately ourselves, before presenting vaguely constructed etymologies, particularly when expounding the words in the Bible. Many cults, which prefer old wives’ tales over the word of God, despise the very word Easter believing it to be a Christianised pagan festival of the spring goddess Ishtar. Many good Christians feel obligated to their conscience to reject celebrating Easter because they too believe it to be based on idolatry and paganism. The traditions which have been added to Easter have not helped either. Most English-speaking people associate chocolate eggs and rabbits with Easter as much as they do the celebration of Christ’s resurrection
Hebrew Pesach became Greek Pascha
In most languages the word for Easter is exactly the same as the word for Passover, so he relationship between the feast of Passover, and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is directly linked. A few examples are; Latin Pascha, French Pâques, Italian Pasqua, and Dutch Pasen. All these words mean both Easter and Passover, only the context formulates the difference. With the exception of English and German, all other European languages do not have separate words for Easter and Passover, but simply use a single term derived from fPesach, the Hebrew word for Passover. In one way, this is an advantage to the believer, who immediately associates Jesus Christ as the Passover Lamb. Whether reading the New or Old Testaments, the association between Christ and the Passover is clearly seen. This was also the case in the original Greek language which uses the Greek word Pascha for both Passover and the resurrection of Christ. This has been the same for 2000 years in the Greek. Even if you look up a Modern Greek dictionary it will tell you that Pascha means both Easter and Passover. 1 This was also the case in English until Tyndale coined the term Passover. But as we shall see, the English rendition of Easter and Passover in the King James Bible is superior and needs to be exalted into its rightful place in English Bible versions, dictionaries and Christian literature again. This does not conclude that the English is superior to the original Greek, which is a form of Ruckmanism, 2 but in this particular instance there is a special feature in the KJV, which is made clear in the original Greek when read in context, but is made abundantly clear by the scholarship of the KJV translators. Just as most Bibles include things like capitalisation of deity or have the words of Christ in red, and other helps, so too did the KJV translators make the Old Testament Passover and New Testament Easter easier for the reader to understand in context.
When the Bible was being translated into the Latin language in the fourth century, when translating the word Pascha, which can mean both Passover and Easter in Latin, Jerome simply used the same Greek word without creating a new Latin word in its place, thus Pascha was basically un-translated.
In the first translation of the entire Bible into English, the hand-written Wycliffe Bible in 1382, appears basically the same un-translated Latin word, Pascha. 3 When we come to the Latin word Pascha it is transliterated without an English equivalent. The words used were Pask and Paske, still a basic type of the Hebrew word Pesach and the Greek Pascha. Later when Roman Catholic scholars translated the Douay-Rheims Bible from the same Latin Vulgate in the 17th century they used the word Pasche, which gave it a more English feel, but was still in essence un-translated. Wycliffe’s version translated Acts 12:4:
And whanne he hadde cauyte Petre, he sente hym in to prisoun; and bitook to foure quaternyouns of knyytis, to kepe hym, and wolde aftir pask bringe hym forth to the puple.
So we can see the English language in the 1300s had the same characteristics as most foreign languages do today, concerning the translation of Pascha as meaning both Easter and Passover. Then Tyndale gave us a greater advantage by using the word Ester (Easter) in his translation and then later inventing the term Passover. Ultimately this gave us two separate words for two distinct occasions. It must be noted that the Anglo Saxon term Easter was used much more frequently in common literature to denote the Passover and the celebration of the resurrection than the Latin Pask ever was. Pask was basically a synonym for Easter (meaning both Passover and Easter) but was mainly used by the clergy.
Anglo Saxon Roots
eastanwind – east wind
eastcyning – eastern king
eastdael – eastern quarter, the East
easte – the East
eastende – east-end, east quarter
Eastengle – the East Anglians: East Anglia
Easteraefen – Easter-eve
Easterdaeg – Easter-day, Easter Sunday
Easterfaestan – Easter-fast, Lent
Easterfeorm – feast of Easter
Easterfreolsdaeg – the feast day of Passover Eastergewuna – Eastercustom (appearsonlyin the 9th century sermons of Aelfric where he is referring to Christian Easter practices)
Easterlic – belonging to Easter, Paschal
Eastermonath – Easter-month, April
Easterne – east, eastern, oriental
Easterniht – Easter-night
Eastersunnandaeg – Easter Sunday
Eastersymble – Passover (lit. Easter gathering)
Eastertid – Eastertide, Paschal season
Easterthenung – Passover
Easterwucu – Easter Week
So as we can see, the word Easter in Anglo Saxon was used for both the Jewish Passover and the celebration of the resurrection, and also was very commonly used.
William Tyndale—a brilliant scholar
William Tyndale was a brilliant scholar and was first to incorporate Easter in an English Bible and he also invented the word Passover. William Tyndale translated and printed the New Testament in English and the first five books of the Old Testament between 1525 and 1535 in Germany and the Low Countries while in exile. He was the first person to ever print an English translation. He worked from the original Greek and Hebrew texts at a time when knowledge of those languages in England was rare. He was educated at Oxford University and later at Cambridge where he also lectured and became skilled in not only Hebrew and Greek, but also Latin, Italian, Spanish, and French with such fluency that Herman Buschius, a friend of Erasmus, stated that: “which ever he spoke you would suppose it his native tongue”.4
Tyndale was responsible for the insertion of both Easter and Passover in the English Bible. In his 1525 New Testament, Tyndale used the English word Easter to translate the Greek word Pascha. Pascha, being formerly transliterated in Wycliffe’s version, was for the first time in a Bible translation, translated into a unique English word. 5
As we can conclude from the Anglo Saxon terms mentioned above, English people celebrated the season around the Jewish Passover as Easter. Also it must be pointed out that Tyndale used Easter as a synonym expressing the Jewish Passover and never in association with a pagan festival. Some modern day scholars conclude that the word Easter has pagan origins, but the facts are that the word Easter and also the celebration of Easter are entirely Christian. Easter was not only a synonym for Passover, but also a descriptive word revealing the New Testament fulfilment of the Passover, in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. The Greek word Pascha occurs twenty-nine times in the New Testament, and Tyndale has Ester (or Easter) fourteen times, Esterlambe eleven times, Esterfest once, and Paschall Lambe three times. In 1525, Tyndale’s New Testament was printed. Fiveyears later in 1530 he printed the Pentateuch—the first five books of the Old Testament. When Tyndale was working on the New Testament, the word Ester (Easter) was adequate to translate Pascha, but when he started the Old Testament book of Exodus, in 12:11 he discovered the word Easter, which means resurrection, was inappropriate. This problem involved the translating of the Hebrew word Pecach, which if translated Easter, meaning resurrection, would form an anachronism (from the Greek ana, “against,” and chronos, “time”), which is something located at a time when it could not have existed or occurred. Basically, if he used the English word Easter, which describes Christ’s resurrection, in the translation of the Old Testament, he would be speaking of an event that had not yet happened. The Easter lamb or resurrection lamb was a logical translation to Tyndale in the New Testament setting, but seemed rather odd in the Old Testament. So Tyndale with his astounding linguistic ability formed the word Passover, and used it in all twenty-two places of the Old Testament Pentateuch. The word Passover comes from the idea that God passed over the houses of the Israelites, who had marked their doorposts with blood in obedience to God, and the children of Israel were spared when Gods mote the firstborn sons of the Egyptian taskmasters on the eve of the Exodus. The sons of Israel were thus redeemed from the land of sin, Egypt, and redeemed from Pharaoh to serve Jehovah. The Hebrew word Pecach was understood by the Israelites at the time to mean skip over or to limp. So Tyndale used two words “pass” and “over” meaning to skip over or limp over, which shortly became the one word Passover in the 1530 Pentateuch, but Ester (Easter) remained in Tyndale’s revision of the New Testament in 1534. Brilliantly, Tyndale’s Passover also incorporates the pass sound as in Pask and Pascha. Interestingly, the word Passion which means suffering, seems to have evolved from Pascha. Perhaps Gibson should have called his film The Pascha of the Christ!
Since the time of the King James Version until the early twentieth century, the term Easter was commonly identified by believers solely as the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Before Tyndale, Easter was the chief word used for the Jewish Passover by Christians. This is because Easter and Passover are the same season, Jews celebrating the shadow, and Christians celebrating the fulfilment. The word Easter has illustrated to the Englishman much more than simply the Passover celebration, but through Tyndale’s addition of Easter, construction of the word Passover, and later with the King James’ translators correctly re-applying Easter only once in Acts 12:4, it gives significant insight into revealing the fulfilment of the Passover in Christ. It exalts Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection above all. In past times Easter to the English speaker not only saw Christ as the Passover lamb but clearly defined the difference in the celebrations, one containing the promise and one fulfilling the promise. Modern criticism has blurred that revelation.
After 1611, the Old Testament Easter, which formerly meant both Passover and Easter, became solely the old covenant Passover, a trend Tyndale had begun to accomplish. Because Luther’s version was printed before Tyndale’s, Tyndale would have had the advantage of being able to cross reference and improve any inconsistencies.
Luther’s translation was a strong influence on Tyndale’s New Testament. Because of persecution in Catholic England, Tyndale left England for Germany. It is strongly believed that he met with Luther in Germany in 1525, as many of Tyndale’s beliefs were, in essence, Lutheran. By the end of the year, Tyndale had printed the New Testament in English. It is likely that Tyndale’s use of Easter in his New Testament is also indebted to his knowledge of Luther’s German translation, which uses Oster (pronounced Ouster) in the same way as Tyndale uses Easter. Because the English Anglo Saxon language originally derived from the Germanic when the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes came to England in the 5th and 6th centuries, there are many similarities between German and English. Many English writers have referred to the German language as the Mother Tongue! The English word Easter is of German/Saxon origin and not Babylonian as Alexander Hislop falsely claimed, and as we shall see later. The German equivalent is Oster. 6 Oster (Ostern being the modern day correspondent) is related to Ost which means the rising of the sun, or simply in English, east. Oster comes from the old Teutonic form of auferstehen/auferstehung, which means resurrection 7, which in the older Teutonic form comes from two words, ester meaning first, and stehen meaning to stand. 8 These two words combine to form erstehen which is an old German form of auferstehen, the modern day German word for resurrection. 9 The English Easter and German Oster go hand in hand.
Tyndale with his expertise in the German language knew of the Easter-Oster association. Luther obviously defined Oster both as synonym for the Jewish Passover and aphrase used for the resurrection of Christ. In Luther’s German New Testament we find Ostern, Osterlamm, Osterfest, Fest, and only once das Passa (Hebrews 11.28). In His Old Testament he used the German word Passaopffer (an obvious forerunner for Tyndale’s Passover), Osterfest, Ostern, and Osterlamm once each. In Exodus 12:11 Luther rendered Passah with a marginal note referring to the Osterlamm. Even in contemporary German the phrase das jüdische Osterfest (the Jewish Passover) demonstrates that the German Oster can mean both the Jewish and Christian festivals. In fact the meaning of the German word Ostern is today just as the English word Easter was until the KJV translators skilfully put it in its correct semantic range in Acts 12:4, thus separating forever the Old Easter and the New Easter as we shall see.
Early English Examples
Before the 1530s, England always used the word Easter for both the Jewish Passover and the Resurrection celebration. Sometimes clergy used the Latin Pask or Paske, but predominantly Easter. Here are two non-biblical examples of Easter and Passover being synonyms.
In the Peterborough Chronicle of 1122 we read:
On this geare waes se king Heanri on Christesmaess en on Norhtwic, and on Pax-hes he waes on Norhthamtune” (This year King Henry was in Norwich for Christmas and in Northampton for Easter).
A 1563 homilist spoke of “Easter, a great, and solemne feast among the Jewes”. Today, Pascha vaguely remains an adjective meaning Easter, as in Paschal candle. In Scotland and the North of England, children hunt for Pasch eggs.
Early Biblical Examples
In the 1537 Matthew’s Bible which incorporated Tyndale’s work on the Pentateuch, the word used was Passeover, but there were references to Ester in the chapter summaries in Leviticus 23, Numbers 9 and Deuteronomy 16.
In the 1539 Great Bible they used Passeover 14 times, while Ester appears 15 times all in the New Testament. The Great Bible translates Acts 12:4 this way:
And when he had caught hym, he put him in preson also, and dely-vered him to. iiii. quaternions of soudiers to be kepte, entendynge after Ester to bringe him forth to the people.
In the 1557 version of the Geneva Bible, every place had Passeover except Acts 12:4, where it had Easter, which was identical to how the King James Version translated it.
In the 1560 version of the Geneva Bible, which became the most popular of the Geneva bibles, the word Easter was completely substituted with Passeouer on all occasions. The Geneva Bible of 1560 does not use Easter anywhere. Acts 12:4 reads:
And when he had caught hym, he put hym in prison, and delivered hym to foure qua-ternions of souldiers to be kept, intendying after the Passover to brying hym forthe to the people.
In the 1568 Bishops’ Bible, Easter appears twice,in John 11:55 and Acts 12:4.The Bishops’ Bible of 1568 translates Acts 12:4:
And when he had caught him, he put him in prison also, and delivered him to foure quaternions of souldiers to be kept, intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.
In the 1611 Authorised Version, Easter appears once in Acts 12:4.
The King James Version
Until 1611, English-speaking people had always associated the word Easter with the celebration of Passover and the prophetic implications which occurred at Christ’s death and resurrection. They saw that the Old Testament shadow was the Passover and that the New Testament fulfilment was Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection called Easter. The King James Bible finalised 86 years of change in the use of Easter and Passover. After seeing what Tyndale had begun and the refining of the word Easter within almost a century of various translation attempts, the KJV translators caused the semantic range of Easter to be translated only once as Easter in Acts 12:4. This was because in every instance in the New Testament except Acts 12:4, the Greek word Pascha represented the pre-resurrection Passover, i.e. the Jewish celebration. In other words Christ had not yet died as the Passover lamb for the whole world. But in Acts 12:4 it is a post-resurrection Passover, where Christ had died and was risen.
The Greek word Pascha appears 29 times in the Greek New Testament. In 28 of those instances it is referring to the Old Testament Passover. But in Acts 12:4 it is referring to the New Testament celebration which was the Lord’s Supper. Christ had become the Lamb of God and replaced the old Passover sacrifice with the new covenant in His blood. Therefore the old Passover type was replaced with the celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ which is the fulfilment called Easter, meaning resurrection.
Because the KJV translators rendered this word once, in Acts 12:4, with the understanding that it was the Christian resurrection celebration being celebrated and not just the old Passover, it stands to be the most accurate of all the English translations concerning this topic. After 1611, with the predominance of the KJV and with the process of time, Passover became known as an Old Testament word, and Easter became known as a New Testament word. The only other time Pascha is mentioned in the post-resurrection semantic range is in 1 Corinthians 5:7, “For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us”. Tyndale’s Bible has, “For Christ our Easter lamb is offered up for us”. Obviously, with the semantic range of the Old Testament Passover, and the New Testament Easter, this scripture is correctly translated Passover by the KJV translators, as it alludes to the Jewish custom of carefully putting away from their houses all leaven upon the approach of the feast of the Passover, thus making the word Passover more appropriate than Easter or Easter lamb in the context. A paraphrase would be “For Christ our fulfilment of the Old Testament Pascha is sacrificed for us”. Tyndale was correct to translate Easter lamb and not Passover because the terms were not clearly defined until 1611.
Hislop’s Clumsy Scholarship
With this in mind, let’s look at what Hislop claimed about the KJV in his The Two Babylons:
Every one knows that the name ‘Easter’ used in our translation of Acts 12:4, refers not to any Christian festival, but to the Jew-ish Passover. This is one of the few places in our version where the translators show an undue bias. 10
Linguists and true Assyriologists would laugh at the claims made by Hislop’s pseudo-scholarship. Since it does not hold up under basic scrutiny, its claims about Easter must be abandoned. Firstly, while Hislop boldly claimed Easter was pagan, he offered no real proof. Alexander Hislop also stated:
Then look at Easter. What means the term Easter itself? It is not a Christian name. It bears its Chaldean origin on its very fore-head. Easter is nothing else than Astarte, one of the titles of Beltis, the queen of heaven, whose name, as pronounced by the people of Nineveh, was evidently identical with that now in common use in this country. That name, as found by La-yard on the Assyrian monuments, is Ishtar. The worship of Bel and Astarte was very early introduced into Britain, along with the Druids, “the priests of the groves”. Some have imagined that the Druidical worship was first introduced by the Phoenicians, who, centuries before the Christian era, traded to the tin-mines of Cornwall. But the unequivocal traces of that worship are found in regions of the British islands where the Phoenicians never penetrated, and it has everywhere left indelible marks of the strong hold which it must have had on the early British mind. 11
It must be noted that most cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Seventh Day Adventists gravitate warmly to Hislop’s false ideas. While he does offer some sound information about pagan traditions becoming Roman Catholic practice in his book, he fails to recognise that biblical Christian traditions that were formed from the Word of God were initiated by Jehovah God Himself and have no roots in paganism whatever. Hislop fails to see that the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, etc, were ordained by God who did not borrow ideas from Israel’s pagan neighbours.
Hislop’s Claims: Based Merely On Phonetics
Hislop’s whole theory is based merely on phonetics and not on historical verification. His whole argument is based on the false notion that Easter sounds like Ishtar and he therefore concludes that they must be related. Any linguist knows that this type of conclusion is unreasonable. Then without a single shred of evidence Hislop denounces the entire biblical Christian celebration of Easter as pagan because of this phonetic similarity. This is absurd, even if he was right, which he wasn’t, do we need to throw out the entire celebration of Easter because an English word has roots in the name of a pagan god? Is that enough ground to wipe Easter off our church calendars? What about every other language that doesn’t use the word Easter, are they wrong also or just German and English speaking people?
Hislop claims that the word Easter is of British origin, he then goes on to theorise that the word somehow became tied to the Hebrew word Ashtoreth which then somehow became attached to the Greek Astarte and which is the same as the Babylonian Ishtar. Hislop performed all these linguistic gymnastics without any understanding at all of the Germanic roots of Easter thus proving his ignorance of the matter. While Hislop has absolutely no evidence to support his theory, there is a library of evidence against his theory. The main one being that Hislop fails to recognise the relationship between the word Easter and the German Oster. The fact that this essential piece of information is not mentioned even once in Hislop’s book proves without a shadow of a doubt that he did not understand the basic etymology of Easter. This demonstration of the Ester/Oster bond again reinforces the Saxon and Germanic etymology, in preference to some ancient Babylonian goddess. This is plain for all to see and elementary to skilled linguists. Hislop stated:
But the unequivocal traces of that worship are found in regions of the British islands where the Phoenicians never penetrated, and it has everywhere left indelible marks of the strong hold which it must have had on the early British mind. 12
This statement demonstrates that Hislop was surprised that the word Easter is used so frequently in England, concluding that the influence of the Phoenicians must have been much greater than previously thought, thus demonstrating again that he knew nothing of the link to the German Oster which all evidence leads to. C.F. Cruse in 1850 AD pointed out three years before Hislop wrote The Two Babylons, that
Our word EASTER is of Saxon origin and of precisely the same import with its Ger-man cognate ostern. The latter is derived from the old Teutonic form of auferstehen / auferstehung, that is—resurrection. 13
The etymology of Easter is easily traced to the German word for resurrection, not to some fabricated pagan goddess, for which there is not a crumb of evidence. A child could understand how Easter came from Oster, but skilled linguists grapple to decipher Hislop’s confusion, because like evolution, it is an inexhaustible myth, i.e. a wild goose chase! You can spend forever going through names of Istar in Latin, Hebrew, Greek, etc, and you will be none the wiser.
Jehovah initiated Easter, not pagans
According to scripture, Jehovah initiated both Passover and Easter. The Hebrews didn’t need the intermediary of pagans. Moses states in the book of Exodus that God gave the Passover Feast to the Jews, and that God gave the specific date upon which the Passover was to be celebrated, the 14th of Nissan (formerly called Abib, before the Exodus). The Jews did not borrow the Passover feast or the Passover date from anyone, but got both the feast and the date of the feast directly from Jehovah God. The Easter celebration, which is the Christian fulfilment of the Jewish Passover, occurred on the very same date as the Jewish celebration, the 14th of Nissan. Christians did not need to copy the Resurrection idea or the Resurrection date from pagans. Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ because Jesus Christ literally rose from the dead in fulfilment of the Passover on that day. Hislop speculates that the Christian celebration was not based upon the Jewish Passover, but that Christians somehow abandoned the fulfilment of the Jewish Passover and instead celebrated an unknown fertility festival. There is no evidence for this apart from what Hislop theorised. If you’re a Bible believer, you believe the Bible—if you’re superstitious, you believe Hislop.
Ralph Woodrow who repented of writing many Hislop-style books pointed out that Hislop theorised that Nimrod, Adonis, Apollo, Attes, Ball-zebub, Bacchus, Cupid, Dagon, Hercules, Januis, Linus, Lucifer, Mars, Merodach, Thithra, Molock, Narcissus, Oannes, Oden, Orion, Osiris, Pluto, Saturn, Teitan, Typhon, Vulcan, Wodan, and Zoraster were all one and the same god! By mixing myths, Hislop supposed that Semiramis was the wife of Nimrod and was the same as Aphrodite, Artemis, Astarte, Aurora, Bellona, Ceres, Diana, Easter, Irene, Iris, Juno, Mylitta, Proserpine, Rhea, Venus, and Vesta. With these types of generalisations one must seriously consider whether Hislop’s book has any redeeming qualities at all. 14
King James Translators
In stark contrast, let’s take a quick look at the scholarship of some of the King James Version translators.
Lancelot Andrews, 15 one of the chief translators of the Authorised Version, spoke 15 European languages which were, at the time, the majority of the modern languages of Europe. He had private devotions all written in Greek. He is still regarded as one of the greatest scholars ever!
William Bedwell 16 was an eminent Oriental scholar whose fame for Arabic learning was so great that scholars sought him out for assistance. He was the first person who considerably promoted and revived the study of the Arabic language and literature in Europe. In 1612, he published in quarto an edition of the Epistles of St John in Arabic with a Latin version. He compiled an Arabic lexicon (dictionary) in three volumes, and also began a Persian dictionary. He was educated in cognate languages and thoroughly conversant in the science of Semitic linguistics, i.e. he knew a great deal about Hebrew’s sister tongues and other biblical languages—Arabic, Persian, Syriac, Aramaic, Coptic, etc.
Miles Smith 17 deeply studied the 100 church fathers from 100 to 300 AD and 200 more who wrote from 300 to 600 AD in Greek and Latin and made his own comments on each of them. He was well acquainted with the marginal comments in the Hebrew language. He was fluent in Hebrew also an expert in Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic, so that they were almost as familiar as his native tongue.
Henry Savile 18 was famous for his Greek and mathematical learning at a young age. He was Queen Elizabeth’s tutor in Greek and Mathematics. He translated countless ancient works from Latin and Greek his chief work being the first to edit the complete work of Chrysostom, the most famous of the Greek church fathers, in eight large folios. A folio was the size of a large dictionary or encyclopaedia.
John Bois 19 had read the entire Bible by the age of five in Hebrew! By the age of six he wrote Hebrew in a reasonable and stylish character. He was also just as skilled in Greek by his mid teens. He was known to study continually from 4am to 8pm—i.e. 16 hours straight. He had a library which contained one of the most complete and costly collections of Greek literature that had ever been collated. He left over 30,000 pages of writing when he died. He could read the Greek New Testament like he read English.
This is a small portion of the testimonies of the 57 translators who translated the KJV. How sad that in this day and age we trust someone like Hislop who was uneducated in the basics of linguistics and barely knew any English etymology at all let alone any ancient Semitic languages fluently.
Many Bible critics and translators today who perhaps know how to use a Strong’s or Vine’s, or took a year or two of Greek or Hebrew at a Bible school, have followed in Hislop’s footsteps. What a shame that believers devote so much time arguing against Easter, something that Christ himself instituted, or waste so much time attacking the KJV Bible.
It also seems strange if not blasphemous that we as Bible-believing Christians could think that the King James Version translators would insert the name of a pagan deity in place of the word Pascha. Imagine if we placed Krishna or Allah in its stead.
To think that the world’s most famous translation could get it so wrong here is sheer ignorance on our behalf. To believe that Tyndale, Cranmer, Martin Luther, Coverdale, Matthews, the translators of the Great Bible, and the Bishops’ Bible, the King James Bible, were referring to a pagan god of the spring called Ishtar is so absurd that it becomes humorous when examined.
If this hearsay is true, then Luther and Tyndale who named Christ the “Easter-lamb” were being blasphemous, as it would be like calling Christ the “fertility goddess lamb!” Imagine calling Christ the “Allah-lamb”, or the “Buddha-lamb”. But I suppose that is why people have rejected Easter, for conscience sake. But with the information provided, it is time for Christians to examine Easter in a logical way and not follow conspiracy theories, which is usually the practice of cults. Modern biblical criticism, more than anything else, has weakened and almost destroyed the high view of the Bible previously held throughout Christendom.
The modern KJV 21st century version and the Third Millennium Bible both read Easter in Acts 12:4, while every other modern translation has Passover. While it was correct to translate Pascha as Passover in the 16th century, it is not factual to state that Easter is an erroneous translation of Pascha today. I believe that the word Easter should be resurrected (no pun intended) from its current state in modern translations, dictionaries, and in our personal worship. The celebration of Easter should be a time of jubilation, not a time to talk about myths, fables and old wives’ tales. Just as the Jews remembered the Passover, so too should Christians remember Christ at communion. So next time you break the bread and drink the wine at Easter, consider the Passover lamb, and the celebration of Easter, which has been a part of Christianity since the resurrection of Christ.
In Summary and Conclusion
The early church never debated whether or not to celebrate Easter, but only debated the day to celebrate it on. The King James translators concluded that the insertion of the words in Acts 12:3 “Then were the days of unleavened bread” just before the inclusion of the word Easter was enough evidence to prove that Luke was talking about the Christian Pascha i.e. Easter, the celebration of the resurrection. 20
1. Divry’s Modern English-Greek and Greek-English desk dictionary 1974. p 99 & 634
2. Ruckmanism is the false teaching that the King James translation is superior to any Hebrew or Greek text, and is alone the Word of God.
3. Christopher De Hamel, The Book. A History of The Bible (London: Phaidon Press Ltd., 2001) Most extant Wycliffe Bibles contain Catholic liturgy which Wycliffe would have opposed, and because of this some assert that Wycliffe’s version was completely wiped out, and that the existing Latin versions are later Catholic corruptions, and thus, Wycliffe may have translated from the Hebrew and Greek. So to date most historians will affirm that Wycliffe did not translate the Bible from the original Greek and Hebrew, but from the Latin Vulgate. Thus existing versions are a translation of a translation.
4. Life of Tyndale, Demaus, p130
6. Langenscheit’s German-English English-German dictionary, 1963 p167
7. Cassell’s German and English Dictionary by Karl Bruel, 1952 p48
8. Cassell’s German and English Dictionary by Karl Bruel, 1952 p182
9. Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, Translated by C.F. Cruse, Hendrickson Publishers, p437
10. The Two Babylons, Alexander Hislop p103. (Chapter III, Section II, Easter.) First published as a pamphlet in 1853—greatly expanded in 1858)
11. The Two Babylons, Alexander p103.
12. The Two Babylons, Alexander p103.
13. Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, Translated by C.F. Cruse, Hendrickson Publishers, p437
14. The Babylon Connection? Ralph Woodrow
15. cf. http://www.jesus-is-lord.com/transla1.htm
16. cf. http://www.jesus-is-lord.com/transla5.htm
17. cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miles_Smith
18. cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Henry_Savile
19. cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Bois
Why We Should Not Passover Easter Part 2
by Nick Sayers
In Part 1, we traced the history of the English Bible and discovered that the etymology of Easter is not from pagan origins but is of an entirely Christian derivation.
Our word Easter is of Saxon origin and of precisely the same import with its German cognate Ostern. The latter is derived from the old Teutonic form of auferstehen / auferstehung, that is – resurrection. 1
Most claims that “Easter”, in Acts 12:4 was a mistake or a mistranslation in the King James Bible, stem from the “pagan origins” myth. However there is also another reason why some reject Easter being inserted here. The phrase, “Everyone knows that Pascha means Passover and not Easter” is often claimed with pulpit thumping assertion in many anti Easter articles on the Internet. Yet, modern Greek dictionaries define ‘Pascha’ as ‘Easter’, and if you asked any modern Greek what Pascha means every one of them will say that Pascha means Easter, the very opposite to what some “Greek experts” within the assembly of textual critics will assert. Many of God’s people repeat what these “experts” affirm, as I myself once did, either claiming Easter to be Pagan or citing the “inaccuracy” of Acts 12:4. But as we shall see, Easter in Acts 12:4 in the KJV was not a mistake, but merely a cue for readers to consider the timing of Herod’s captivity of Peter and his desire to bring him before the people, just as what happened to Jesus not many years prior, also at Passover – though the use of Easter would make them consider Christ our Passover and the resurrection.
The Greek Pascha appears 29 times, 28 as Passover and once as Easter:
“Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.” (Acts 12:4 KJV)
Luke formulated Pashas’ semantic domain
With our current western way of thinking, we sometimes separate Pascha into two distinct time periods, one being Passover and the other Easter. It helps to know that in NT times, Jews were celebrating the Passover and the Christians were celebrating the Resurrection (Easter) at the same period of time. It would appear that the rationale of the KJV translators in using the word “Easter” and not “Passover”, was that Herod would have thought in terms of the Jewish designation, and was waiting until after the festival to bring Peter before the Jews, as his desire was to please the Jews, while Luke the writer of Acts, made it perfectly clear by stating “then were the days of unleavened bread” that he was speaking of the Christians’ Pascha, and was making mention that the Passover feast day had already taken place and the feast of unleavened bread was taking place. Luke forced the semantic domain of Pascha by making this statement, and wasn’t referring to the Passover feast day which was on the first day of the feast, but stated that Peter was taken during the days of unleavened bread which was the seven-day period after the feast.
Even the liberal Bible translator and scholar Philip Schaff said,
“Easter is the resurrection festival which follows the Passover proper, but is included in the same festive week”. 2
Luke didn’t have separate words in Greek to specify the difference between the Passover proper and the Resurrection celebration (Easter), so he used “Pascha” and added “then were the days of unleavened bread” emphasizing the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. He followed this pattern throughout the book of Acts. Luke would not have added it for some trivial reason. Rather he was inserting information that would place the Greek “Pascha” into context. In Greek literature (and the Textus Receptus itself),
“The use of the word Pascha in early Christian writings dealt with the celebration of Easter, and not just the Jewish Passover.” 3
Luke rarely went out of his way to explain the OT practices of the Jews in Acts. For example in chapters 1 and 2 (and right through Acts) things like “a Sabbath day’s journey” from Jerusalem “the day of Pentecost was come” are written without any explanation whatever. So the addition of the words; “then were the days of unleavened bread” indicate that there was something Luke wanted the readers to know about the particular chronology of the occurrences in the 12th Chapter of Acts. Had Luke not included these words, there would be no doubt as to it meaning the Jewish feast and the thought of a Christian feast would only come to mind in the knowledge that historically the early church did celebrate Easter more or less during the same festival week. Also it would not have been necessary to make any distinction at all, as the KJV translators did. But the fact remains that Luke did mention it and the very learned KJV translators did see that its insertion was vital to explain the context correctly.
The KJV translators were well aware that Tyndale changed many of his references from Easter to Passover in his editions of the NT after he invented the word Passover, and also how Pascha was used for both Easter and Passover in early church literature, as the previous article2 uncovered. Yet they were also especially familiar with the disputations about Easter in the first few centuries of Christianity. Dr. G. W. H. Lampe has correctly stated, “Pascha came to mean Easter in the early church.” Dr. Lampe lists several rules and observances by Christians in celebration of their Pascha or Easter. He also points to various Greek words such as “paschazo” and “paschalua” that came to mean “celebrate Easter” and “Eastertide.” 4
Likewise, Dr. Gerhard Kittel notes,
Pascha came to be called Easter in the celebration of the resurrection within the primitive Church. 5
It must be remembered that the Pascha was the most important feast of the Jews. The early Church, including Luke, would have initiated the trend of not celebrating the old shadow Pascha but celebrating the new Pascha. Alfred Edersheim, a Messianic Jew in the 19th century, said of the Last Supper:
It was to be the last of the old “Pascha’s”; the first, or rather the symbol of promise, of the new. 6
He clearly knew that every Pascha from the time of the Cross was to be the new Pascha and not the old. John Owen wrote:
There was also a signal vindication of the truth pleaded for, in an instance of fact among the primitive churches. There was an opinion which prevailed very early among them about the necessary observation of Easter, in the room of the Jewish Passover, for the solemn commemoration of the death and resurrection of our Saviour. And it was taken for granted by most of them, that the observance hereof was countenanced, if not rendered necessary to them, by the example of the apostles; for they generally believed that by them it was observed, and that it was their duty to accommodate themselves to their practice… By the later second century, it was accepted that the celebration of Easter was a practice of the disciples and an undisputed tradition. That Easter was to be observed by virtue of Apostolical tradition was generally granted by all. 7
Again, Philip Schaff observed:
From some hints in the Epistles, viewed in the light of the universal and uncontradicted practice of the church in the second century it may be inferred that the annual celebration of the death and the resurrection of Christ, and of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, originated in the apostolic age. In truth, Christ crucified, risen, and living in the church, was the one absorbing thought of the early Christians; and as this thought expressed itself in the weekly observance of Sunday, so it would also very naturally transform the two great typical feasts of the Old Testament into the Christian Easter and Whit-Sunday. The Paschal controversies of the second century related not to the fact, but to the time of the Easter festival, and Polycarp of Smyrna and Anicet of Rome traced their customs to a … difference in the practice of the apostles themselves. 8
Schaff indicates that historically there was never any debate within the early church over a pagan Easter, nor whether or not it should be celebrated, but primarily what day it should be celebrated on. In Bible times, the 14th of Nisan could fall on any day of the week, but some in the church felt that the 17th (also known as the feast of first fruits), the date Jesus arose from the dead, should be the proper day that Easter be celebrated and the Lord’s Supper taken. But that could also fall on any day of the week. Finally it was concluded that the Sunday following the 14th should be the day. This practice was followed by most churches except for the Quartodecimans (derived from the Vulgate Latin: “quarta decimal”, meaning fourteen) who kept Easter on the Passover day, the 14th. They were generally considered legalists by most of the church fathers.
Around 120 A.D., Polycarp, who was a disciple of John, went to see the Christian leader Anicetus to discuss the proper date for this celebration:
Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, visited Rome to confer with him about the controversy over the date of Easter. 9
Those in Asia celebrated it on the moveable week-day of the 14th of Nisan (the Jewish Passover) while those in Rome did it on the first Sunday after Passover. They decided to let each group continue as they had been doing, rather than cause a split.
We read in Eusebius:
A question of no small importance arose at that time [i.e. about A.D. 190]. The dioceses of all Asia, as from an older tradition, held that the fourteenth day of the moon, on which day the Jews were commanded to sacrifice the lamb, should always be observed as the feast of the life-giving pasch, contending that the fast ought to end on that day, whatever day of the week it might happen to be. However it was not the custom of the churches in the rest of the world to end it at this point, as they observed the practice, which from Apostolic tradition has prevailed to the present time, of terminating the fast on no other day than on that of the Resurrection of our Saviour…. These words of the Father of Church History … tell us almost all that we know concerning the paschal controversy in its first stage. A letter of Irenaeus is among the extracts just referred to, and this shows that the diversity of practice regarding Easter had existed at least from the time of 120 A.D.. Further, Irenaeus states that Polycarp, who like the other Asiatics, kept Easter on the fourteenth day of the moon, whatever day of the week that might be, following therein the tradition which he claimed to have derived from St. John the Apostle, came to Rome circa 150 A.D. about this very question. 10
Paul had prophetically given good advice to the Roman church on these matters:
One man esteems one day above another: another esteems every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regards the day, regards it to the Lord; and he that does not regard the day, to the Lord he does not regard it….But why do you judge your brother? or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ (Romans 14 5-6;10).
Interestingly Paul scolded the Galatian church in Asia for lapsing into ritualism saying:
“But now, after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you again desire to be in bondage? You observe days, months, seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have laboured for you in vain.” (Galatians 4:9-11)
Quartodecimans were looked upon by the early church much the same as Seventh Day Adventists are seen today, trying to impose concepts from the dispensation of the Law into the dispensation of grace. Unfortunately many Quartodecimans were persecuted and killed for this belief. 11
Quartodecimanism was almost thoroughly snuffed out at the Anti-Semitic ecumenical Council of Nicea:
When the question arose concerning the most holy day of Easter, it was decreed by common consent to be expedient, that this festival should be celebrated on the same day by all, in every place. …it seemed to everyone a most unworthy thing that we should follow the custom of the Jews in the celebration of this most holy solemnity, who, polluted wretches having stained their hands with a nefarious crime, are justly blinded in their minds. It is fit, therefore, that, rejecting the practice of this people, we should perpetuate to all future ages the celebration of this rite, in a more legitimate order, which we have kept from the first day of our Lord’s passion even to the present times. Let us then have nothing in common with the most hostile rabble of the Jews. 12
Although sometimes incorrect, the Council of Nicea’s final decision on Easter was in accord with the majority of the early church fathers, which is what really matters. Once the churches became unified about Easter in the fourth century, the date was more consistent until the West’s adoption of the revised Gregorian calendar in the sixteenth century. Although Britain didn’t accept the calendar until 1752, most of Europe had accepted a different calendar during the generation of the translators. This observance and its basic structure survives with us up to our time, with Easter Sunday being resurrection Sunday, representing the 17th of Nisan, and Good Friday being the date which is a representation of the 14th of Nisan, although in 32 AD the day Jesus died was a Thursday. 13
These calendar modifications in Europe would have also caused many of the world’s finest mathematicians, theologians and scholars to be examining these trends, including the KJV translators.
The translator who kept Easter
King James Bible translator Sir Henry Savile was briefly mentioned in our last article. He was an expert on the Greek language, mathematics, and church history and had been personal tutor in Greek and mathematics to Queen Elizabeth. He also founded the first chairs of Geometry and Astronomy in Oxford. His greatest work, besides his work on the King James Bible, was translating the complete works of the most famous Greek Church father John Chrysostom from Greek into English. During his compilation of 15,800 manuscript sheets, he scoured all the great Libraries of Europe, buying the oldest and purest of the Chrysostom manuscripts. Savile’s edition of Chrysostom has been called “the one great work of Renaissance scholarship carried out in England”, and was the most considerable work of pure learning undertaken in England at that time. Power and Glory – Jacobean English and the making of the King James Bible by Adam Nicolson Page 167
Savile, who frequented Europe, was considered by some as the “greatest scholar of his age”. Adam Nicolson, who wrote a book about the translators, dispelled the myth that the King James Bible emerged from an isolated and insular England, by saying,
“A river of European influences runs through it (the version), and through no more open conduit than Henry Savile.” 14
Savile translated Acts 12:4, as a member of the Oxford translation committee assigned to translate Acts, the Gospels and Revelation. Savile was often called in by King James to translate church books into Latin, Italian or French. 15 Chrysostom, whose works Savile translated from Greek into English, was staunchly opposed to Quartodecimanism, which occurred mainly in Asia. While Irenaeus claimed it had roots in apostolic tradition via John, the majority of the church practised Easter on the Sunday after the Passover feast. In his 1612 edition of Homilies 27 Volume 6, which is Discourse I in Patrologia Graeca’s Adversus Iudaeos, Savile gives the title: Chrysostom’s Discourse Against Those Who Are Judaizing and Observing Their Fasts, revealing Savile’s depth of knowledge of the Easter controversies. Interestingly, the earliest book with mathematical content to be printed at Oxford was Compotus manualis ad usum Oxoniensum, printed by Charles Kyrforth in 1520. This book explained how to make calculations for the date of Easter. The second mathematical book to be published in Oxford was Sir Henry Savile’s lectures on Euclid’s Elements, printed in 1621. 16
If one were to search the biographies of Christian history to select a person equipped to translate Acts 12: 4 into English from Greek it would be hard to discover anyone more able than Savile. Obsessed with Chrysostom, an enemy of Quartodecimanism, Savile was intimately acquainted with the Easter controversies. He was a noted mathematician with a mind for detail and chronological events, and one of the greatest English Greek scholars who personally tutored the Queen of England. I doubt you would find anyone more appropriate than Savile.
Bancroft, one of the translators penned the Rules to be observed in translation. He lists some very interesting procedures that demolish myths about private interpretation, or a translator’s oversight in regard to Easter.
Rule 8 states:
Every particuler man of each company to take you same chapter or chapters, and having translated or amended them severally by himselfe where he thinks good, all to meete together, confer what they have done, and agree for their Parts what shall stand.
Thus the translators of Acts, for example, all personally translated the book by themselves, and then their particular group corporately amalgamated those personal translations into one copy which was wholeheartedly agreed to by the entire group.
Rule 9 requires:
As one company hath despatched any one book in this manner they shall send it to the rest to be considered of seriously and judiciously; for His Majestie is verie carefull of this point.
So once the group had reached a consensus, they then sent their manuscript of Acts off to the rest of the translators to be examined by each group.
Rule 10 records:
If any Company, upon you review of you books so sent, really doubt, or differ upon any place, to send them word thereof, note the place, and withal send their reasons; to which if they consent not, the difference to be compounded at you generall meeting, which is to be of the chiefe persons of each company, at you end of your work.
In addition there was a chance to respond to reviewers in front of a committee.
When any place of speciall obscuritie is doubted of, letters to be directed by authority to send to any learned man in the land, for his judgment of such a place. So if agreement could not be reached, further authorities in the land were to be consulted on particular matters. This reveals that great lengths went into the translation’s accuracy. 17
In relation to the previous article, there is also confirmation for the fact that the KJV translators defined Easter as the “Resurrection of Our Lord”, in their frequent mention in their various lists and tables in the Preface of the KJV itself which show us that to the translators, Easter was the holiest day of the year, and they knew exactly what it was, the Resurrection Day.
In the preface, which is in the front of the original 1611 bible, Easter is referred to in “An Almanacke for xxxix yeeres”3 and a date provided for each of those years. This indicates that Easter, in this case, refers to the Easter celebration by Christians for Christ’s resurrection and not to the Jewish Passover. Also the following page, which is a table “To finde Easter forever”, refers to the Christian Easter. In addition, the table “Proper Lessons to be read for the first lessons, both at Morning and Evening prayer”, refers to the Christian Easter and also includes other days such as ‘Whitsunday’ and ‘Trinitie Sunday’ which are Holy Days determined by the date of Christian Easter. This is also true in the table “Proper Psalmes on Certaine Dayes” and on the following page events before and after Easter are described. 18
Thus when Easter was referred to in any of the 1611 KJV prefaces or tables it was referring to what we know today to be Easter. It never refers to Easter as Passover and when Passover is referred to it is the Jewish Holiday. From the above, one must conclude that when Easter was inserted by the KJV translators, it was done so by design showing their trend of using Easter as a post-resurrection Pascha, and Passover as a pre-resurrection Pascha, also causing the definition of Easter as the Jewish Passover to become obsolete, as the Oxford Dictionary would later define Easter in the multi-volume Oxford English Dictionary, and also showing a second meaning “2. The Jewish Passover (obsolete)” 19 thus agreeing with Savile, who was an Oxford man himself. The above also backs up our previous article about Easter that the KJV translation ended an 86-year trend that began with Tyndale.
Scott Jones wrote:
“It doesn’t take a savant to figure it out: the death of Jesus Christ – “Christ our Passover” (1 Cor. 5:7) – occurred before the days of unleavened bread. The resurrection of Jesus Christ occurred during the days of unleavened bread, and Luke went out of his way to explain to his readers, “then were the days of unleavened bread.”20
As we enter the Easter season again, let us keep Easter “not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor. 5:8) (i.e. Easter without legalism, without pagan myths, without conspiracy theories, and without degrading the Authorized Version).
It would be so much more edifying for the church to learn of subjects such as the Passover Lamb fulfilled in Christ, or the fulfilment of the 69 weeks of Daniel’s prophecy on the 10th of Nisan, the Lord’s supper, the blood, the resurrection etc, which no doubt many have been doing, however should do so with even more boldness, proclaiming them without unnecessary doubting or confusion. History reveals that the majority of Christians worldwide have celebrated Easter, because
Jesus (not Pagans) said:
Do this in remembrance of Me cf. Luke 22:19 with 1 Corinthians 11:24.
Therefore whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
1) Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, Translated by C. F. Cruse, Hendrickson Publishers, p 437
2) Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol II, Chapter 5, Footnote 320
3) Dr. Walter Bauer’s, A Greek-English Lexicon Of The New Testament And Other Early Christian Literature – Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1957, 633.
4) G. W. H. Lampe, A Patristic Greek Lexicon Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961, 1048-1049
5) Gerhard Kittle, Theological Dictionary Of The New Testament, Vol. II. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965, 901-904
6) Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Hendrickson Publishers, Book 5, Chapter 10, p 817
7) John Owen, The Works of John Owen, A Discourse Concerning Evangelical Love, Church Peace, and Unity, p 185-186 www.johnowen.org
Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol I, Chapter 9, p 385
10) Eusebius (Hist. Eccl., V, xxiii):
12) Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History
13) While I believe this view, which is also the view of Dave Hunt, some claim Wednesday to be the day including Chuck Missler. Philip Powell of CWM also argues for a Wednesday crucifixion.
14) Adam Nicolson Power and Glory: Jacobean England and the Making of the King James Bible p166
15) The Cradle King A life of James VI & I by Alan Stewart, page 230
19) Oxford Dictionary (Vol. 5, p. 37),