It is Easter time! Starting next week, Christians around the world will begin their Holy Week activities which will culminate in the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead on Sunday, March 27th. Many people around the world will celebrate Easter Sunday without any recognition of Jesus. They will color eggs, hide them so that their children can look for them and fill their Easter baskets. Rather than a resurrected Christ, the central figure of Easter for these folks will be a bunny.
Many people don’t understand how the modern day celebration of Easter became what it is today.
According to the University of Florida’s Center for Children’s Literature and Culture, the origin of the celebration — and the origin of the Easter Bunny — can be traced back to 13th-century, pre-Christian Germany, when people worshiped several gods and goddesses. The Teutonic deity Eostra was the goddess of spring and fertility, and feasts were held in her honor on the Vernal Equinox. Her symbol was the rabbit because of the animal’s high reproduction rate. The eggs which have become a central part of the Easter celebration represented life and the Easter baskets used by children were the nests in which these eggs were laid. People looked for the eggs laid by the rabbit which symbolized fertility and placed them in nests to take home in hope that the gods of fertility would bless the finder with success in the days to come.
When Roman Catholicism took root in Germany in the 15th century, these pagan rituals were incorporated into the celebration of the risen Christ.
As you can clearly see, much of what is done on Easter today springs from pagan roots and, not only has nothing to do with the resurrection of Christ but actually originates in the service of a pagan god.
What about the name Easter? Many wonder about the origins of the name: does it have pagan roots as well?
In 1858 a Scottish minister called Alexander Hislop published a book called ‘The Two Babylons’. The book’s basic teaching is that modern Christianity, in its more ritualistic form (as evidenced within Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy), is entirely pagan and can be traced back to the worship of Nimrod and Semiramis and to the very worst of ancient pagan practices. Hislop stated that the worship of Semiramis morphed as it moved from culture to culture. The name of the goddess worshiped was changed depending upon the area. In Egypt, she was called Isis. In Greece and Rome, she was called Venus, Diana, and Athena. In Babylon, she was known as Asherah. Due to the influence of this work, it came to be believed that the name “Easter” was of Babylonian origin and rooted in the worship of pagan fertility gods.
But, let’s look at this from another angle.
The English word Easter is of German/Saxon origin and not Babylonian as Alexander Hislop falsely claimed. The German equivalent is Oster. Oster (Ostern being the modern day equivalent) 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, which in the older Teutonic form comes from two words, Ester meaning first, and stehen meaning to stand. These two words combine to form erstehen which is an old German form of auferstehen, the modern day German word for resurrection.7 (Italics in original) English and German stand apart in their use of Easter (Ostern) to refer to the celebration of the Resurrection.
John Wycliffe was the earliest translator to publish a complete New Testament in English (1382), though he did his translation from the Latin Vulgate. Wycliffe transliterated the word pascha to pask, rather than translating it.Transliteration is the conversion of a text from one script to another. In other words, a word is copied from one language alphabet to another, usually because no good translation is found. When Martin Luther translated the Bible into German (New Testament in 1522), he chose the word Oster to refer to the Passover references before and after the Resurrection.
William Tyndale translated the Bible into English from the Greek and Hebrew. His New Testament (1525) uses the word ester to refer to the Passover. In fact, we owe our English word Passover to Tyndale. When translating the Old Testament (1530), he coined the term to describe how the Lord would “pass over” the houses marked with the blood of the lamb (Exodus 12). The usage of ester was retained in the 1534 revision of the New Testament, and it was not until later that it was known as Easter, adding the a. Luther and Tyndale were the first to use a translation of pascha rather than a transliteration.9
There is much evidence to say that the name “Easter” is not of pagan religious origin.Those who have been afraid to “contaminate” the Christian celebration of the resurrection by calling it “Easter” may not need to fear. On Easter Sunday, we are going to join with the entire Christian world in celebrating “esterstehen” – Jesus being the first to stand – delivered from death!
I encourage you to celebrate the true meaning of Easter Sunday and to teach your children to do the same! Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus everyday that they live! During the season in which the world observes it’s version of Easter, find out what new life really is! Eggs laid by a bunny cannot bring success or new life but the resurrected Christ can!
Jesus is alive! Find out what that means for you during Easter 2016!