Christian believers around the world will gather this weekend or next, depending on which calendar they use, to commemorate Easter. The story surrounding the historic events of the unjust trial of Jesus, his crucifixion and eventual glorious resurrection is the cornerstone of our faith and the hope of our eternity. And yet every year we are subjected to those religious zealots who come out of hiding to allege that our Easter celebration is leftover from former pagan holidays, and that “True” Christians would never take part if they only knew. What’s more sad is that their readers blindly adopt their misinformation as the Gospel, pun intended. So today I’d like to counter and preempt their arguments with some factual truth.
The most common allegation is that Easter is a derived name from the Mesopotamian Goddess Ishtar. In the early nineteenth century there was a minister of the Free Church of Scotland named Alexander Hilsop. Hilsop was vehemently opposed to the Catholic Church and created and propagated a notion that the Roman Catholic Church was in fact a secret pagan society dating back to Constantine. Hilsop claims since Constantine was never really Christian, he brought pagan words into the Christian vernacular, making Ishtar in essence, Easter. In the English language we don’t substitute two words simply because they sound similar. His writings, specifically his book titled A Tale of Two Babylons, and teachings have been soundly rejected by scholars due to their unsubstantiated factual evidence. You can read much more of his life and the fallacy of his teahings online.
This brings us to the second alleged notion that Easter is named after an Anglo-Saxon goddes named Eostre. First, we now know that Anglo-Saxons did not name their months after gods or goddesses but rather after seasons of agriculture. In addition, there is no evidence that a goddess named Eostre ever existed. The only reference to that name in all history is found in a line of a writing by Venerable Bede, an old historian. There are simply no other listings of that name, no left behind carvings or statues, no lisitng among known gods or goddesses, NOTHING! The existence of Eostre is simply unproven and thereefore, can not be the source of any known pagan ritual.
So then, where do we get the term Easter? In the original Greek, the word Pascha was used for both Easter and Passover. That carried over as well into the Latin translation. However, in the 1500s William Tyndale did not want to use the same word for both the Jewish observance and a Christian observance. He chose Pask, a dervitive of Pascha, for the Jewish holiday, leaving by default, Easter for the Christian observance. King James followed suit in his translation as he recorded the passover in the book of Acts as Easter. In the Orthodox tradition, the original term Pascha is still used in it’s original beauty and significance.
So why address such a misinformed allegation at all, if it has no merit? Simply because there will be many people who believe that if something is posted on any social media platform, especially if it comes from a shared post by one of their friends, then it must be true. We have become so virtually programmed that we absorb all we read on social media like a dry sponge dropped into a swimming pool. There are few fact checkers that will investigate before blindly passing it along or even worse, condemn us who celebrate Easter as being brainwashed by pagan historians, when in fact quite the opposite is more true. To discount the magnificance of Easter to a mere handed down pagan ritual by a discredited Scottish minister is to deny the events on which our entire faith is solely built, and a huge disservice to those foolish enough to believe it rather than the truth of the Gospels.
The historic recording of the Bible manuscripts still in existence, along with other notable historic non-Biblical writings such as those by Josephus, are universally accepted and measured under the criteria of historical accuracy as proof enough that Jesus existed and that the stories left for us are accurate and confirmed by other writings. However, Jesus and his teachings will remain a mystery for those who can’t or won’t accepth him through faith alone. It’s sad, and yet understandable. Jesus’ own disciples, who lived with him and shared in his ministry as witnesses to his miracles and teachings, had a hard time accepting that he was who he claimed to be, even up to his death on the cross. They scattered and hid-only John was recorded to be at the scene of the crucifixion. And even when Jesus miraculously reappears before them, Thomas demands to see his hands as proof, so our doubts are understandable. And yet the truth remains absolute and infallible.
I choose to believe in a God who set forth a plan of reconciliation for all mankind by becoming one of us, fully man and yet at all times retaining all power, who yielded himself and his body to the most horrific suffering imaginable to atone for all sin, was placed in a borrowed tomb and rose from the state of being dead so that we too may share in his resurrection. Don’t be led astray by those who find folly in our faith. Put on your Easter best-commemorate his death on good Friday, and rejoice in his victory over the grave on Easter Sunday with no shame or guilt of pagan worship, and pray for those who miss out on this blessed event because of their own inability to verify false allegations. Jesus died, Jesus rose, Jesus will come again to receive all who have received him! Happy Easter!