Is Easter a Pagan Holiday?

In Jewish Culture and History by Dr. Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

A post by Dr. Faydra Shapiro and Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

There are a growing number of Christians that think that the “Easter” is rooted in pagan Babylonian tradition. One of the basic assumptions is that the name “Easter” is but a Christian remake of “Ishtar”, a Babylonian goddess. Even though the words sound similar, they probably have no etymological connection. The English word “Easter” likely comes from the Proto-Germanic “austron”, which means “sunrise” – arguably a fitting name for the “rising from the dead”.

What is more important, however, is that outside of the English-speaking world (and that is a majority of Christians!) “Easter” is known by its proper name “Pascha”. Pascha is an Aramaic synonym of the Hebrew Pesach, which means “Passover”.

During this feast, a traditional Christian celebrates the work of Christ’s redemption, believing that only in His resurrection is God’s forgiveness truly sealed. Because of Jesus’ resurrection the wrath of God passes over the heads of believers just as the Angel of Death passed over Israelite homes marked by the blood of the lamb.

An average, English-speaking Christian, however, fails to see the direct connection between “Easter/Pascha” and “Passover/Pesach”. Most of the rituals and customs appear different and – just to make sure that no one connects (and therefore confuses) the two – it was decided at Council of Nicea (325 CE) that the feast of Easter/Pascha is to be celebrated according to a separate dating, and not on the 14th of Nissan as it was originally decreed in the Torah of Moses.

Is Easter a Pagan holiday? No. In fact, it is fundamentally a biblical holiday, but one that has been robbed of its true Jewish character and taken out of its original Israelite setting.

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