Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.
-Psalm 138:2, KJV

EASTER OR PASSOVER?

By Jack Moorman

CHALLENGE: "A most unfortunate translation! In each of the 28 other New Testament passages the Greek pascha is translated `Passover.' The same is true of the Hebrew pesach, it is always `Passover.' Why this one exception in Acts 12:4? Further, the word `Easter' was not used in the Christian sense until much later."

"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 quarternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people" (Acts 12:3,4).

ANSWER: You may be surprised to know that the word "passover" did not even exist before William Tyndale coined it for his Version of 1526-31. His was also the first English Bible to use "Easter." Previously the Hebrew and Greek were left untranslated. For example, in Wycliffe's Bible, which was based on the Latin, we find pask or paske.

An article which appeared in The Trinitarian Bible Society Quarterly Record states:

"When Tyndale applied his talents to the translation of the New Testament from Greek into English, he was not satisfied with the use of a completely foreign word, and decided to take into account the fact that the season of the passover was known generally to English people as `easter' ... Tyndale has ester or easter fourteen times, ester-lambe eleven times, esterfest once, and paschall lambe three times. When he began his translation of the Pentateuch, he was again faced with the problem in Exodus 12:11 and twenty- one other places, and no doubt recognizing the easter in this context would be an anachronism he coined a new word, passover and used it consistently in all twenty-two places. It is, therefore, to Tyndale that our language is indebted for this meaningful and appropriate word (date of article not known)."

The English versions after Tyndale followed his example in the Old Testament and increasingly replaced "Easter" with "Passover" in the New Testament. When we come to the Authorized Version there remained but one instance of the word "Easter"--Acts 12:4.

It is precisely in this one passage that "Easter" must be used, and the translation "Passover" would have conflicted with the immediate context. In their rush to accuse the Authorized Version of error many have not taken the time to consider what the passage actually says: "... (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)...intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people."

To begin with, the Passover occurred before the feast of unleavened bread, not after!

"And in the fourteenth day of the first month is the passover of the Lord. And in the fifteenth day of this month is the feast of unleavened bread--seven days shall unleavened bread be eaten" (Num. 28:16,17; see also Mark 14:12; 1 Cor. 5:7,8, etc.).

Herod put Peter in prison during the days of unleavened bread, and therefore after the Passover. The argument that the translation "Passover" should have been used as it is intended to refer to the entire period, is ruled out by the inclusion of "these were the days of unleavened bread." Scripture does not use the word "Passover" to refer to the entire period.

Peloubet's Bible Dictionary says: "Strictly speaking the Passover only applied to the Paschal supper, and the feast of unleavened bread followed" (p. 486).

Therefore, as the passover had already been observed, and the days of unleavened bread were in progress, and yet Herod was still waiting for "after pascha"; we can only conclude that the word must be taken in a broader sense. History in fact does indicate a pagan and Christian interchange with the word through the translation "Easter."

A.W. Watts writes: "The Latin and Greek word for Easter is pascha, which is simply a form of Hebrew word for passover--pesach" (Easter--Its Story and Meaning, p. 36).

Thus, the word came to be associated with both Christian and pagan observance. And it was to this later that Herod was referring.

In an excellent study from which some of the above has been drawn, Raymond Blanton explains (in questions from Alexander Hislop) that Easter is Isthar, the queen of heaven and goddess of spring:

"The `pascha' that Herod was waiting for was evidently the celebration of the death and resurrection of Tammuz, the Sun god. The sunrise services today are a continuation of that pagan worship.

"...the great annual festival in commemoration of the death and resurrection of Tammuz, which was celebrated by alternate weeping and rejoicing and which, in many countries, was considerably later that the Christian festival, being observed in Palestine and Assyria in June. To conciliate the Pagans to nominal Christianity, Rome, pursing its usual policy, took measures to get the Christian and Pagan festival amalgamated, and, by complicated but skillful adjustment of the calendar, it was found no difficult matter, in general, to get Paganism and Christianity to shake hands" (Alexander Hislop, The Two Babylons, p. 105).

Continuing his quotation from Hislop, Blanton shows:

"The term Easter is of pagan origin. It bears its Chaldean origin on its very forehead. Easter is nothing else than Astarte, one of the titles of Beltis, the queen of heaven" (Ibid., p. 103).

"The connection between the word Easter and Tammuz is thus: The wife of Tammuz was Isthar (Astarte), who is called Mother Nature, who being refreshed by spring rains brings life. When Tammuz died, she followed him into the underworld or realm of Eresh-Kigal, queen of the dead. In her deep grief Astarte persuaded Eresh-Kigal to allow her messenger to sprinkle Astarte and Tammuz with the water of life. By this sprinkling they had power to return in the light of the sun for six months. After which the same cycle must be repeated.

resurrection of Tammuz. Easter is a joint worship of the two. This Satanic myth is interwoven with the sun's cycle of vernal equinox (dawn) and autumn equanox (sunset)."

This was the pascha that Herod was waiting for before releasing Peter. As an Edomite, he and his people had a long association with Babylon and her mystery religion (cf. Gen. 14:1-4).

(This material is used with permission from Jack Moorman's book Coonies, Easter, and Brass, available from Way of Life Literature.)

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