What’s Wrong With the Word “Easter”?

(Or why we should kill the bunny and smash the egg)

By Jason Pratt, The Anvil Ministry

This is a Biblical, historical and linguistic study of the origin, meaning, and spiritual implications of the word “Easter” and it’s common use today within Christianity. I have an interest in etymology or “the study of word origins” from their original languages to modern day usage. Please take some time to look into this particular word “Easter” to understand its true meaning and religious underpinnings. We must bear in mind to learn the lessons of the Old Testament that include the errors of Israelites as they strayed from God and sought pagan gods. Jesus tells us in John 4:23-24, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

As a formerly committed atheist I don’t take anything for granted. As an atheist I used to ridicule Christians for not knowing what they believed or why they believed it. While in college I began reading the Bible with the intent of destroying Christianity and I knew there was no better place to start than with the resurrection of Jesus. In fact I was surprised to find the Apostle Paul admitting to this fact in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19; so I knew I was on the right track in my wicked endeavor. The resurrection of Jesus is the very crux upon which all Christianity is based upon! So after searching through the Bible in an attempt to disprove it, starting with the resurrection; I found out that I could not discredit any of the claims in Scripture.  In fact I was quite surprised at much of what I found out. After a little more searching the Lord convinced me of His reality, convicted me of my sin and converted my soul! I worship a risen Savior!

After being born again I diligently studied the Bible so that I would not be like those I formerly ridiculed. I desired to know what the Bible teaches on every subject and why I should believe it. Backing up a little it is worthwhile to mention that I grew up attending a liberal church and then after confirmation I “graduated” church and shortly after that began to confess atheism. Some of the reasons I attributed to my pursuit of atheism were the hypocrisy I witnessed in others at my “church” along with what I saw as a serious compromise with the mixing of pagan practices into church liturgy. I pointed to such practices as Yule logs, decorating evergreen trees, all saints day and other such observances. In fact, today it goes so far as all out blatant and overt promotion of paganism under the guise of being Christian such as “christian yoga” to “spiritual formations”. But those are for another article.

So now I hasten to say that when I became a Christ-follower I wanted to know the details surrounding His sacrificial death on behalf of my sin and His victorious resurrection. With each passing year I became more curious about where the word “Easter” came from and what the deal was with the rabbit and the brightly colored eggs. What do these symbols have to do with the resurrection of Jesus? The short answer is nothing! But let’s delve into the history of these symbols, the origin of the word “Easter,” and how it came to be associated with the most important holiday or Holy Day.

I have now spent several years studying the history behind Passover and First Fruits from Leviticus chapter twenty-three that foreshadowed the sacrificial and atoning death and glorious resurrection of the Lamb of God. I have also spent much time studying the very ominous significance of “Easter” with an interest in etymology, the study of word origins. It is my hope and prayer that after reading this article you will seriously consider the danger and compromise associated with referring to the blessed resurrection of your Savior as “Easter” and relate to the very same error committed by Israel regarding the exact same biblical celebration that foreshadowed the resurrection.  I pray that the Scriptures will convince you, the Holy Spirit convicts you and the history shocks you regarding this very serious situation. To highlight this point would you consider renaming Sunday as “Satanday”? After a few generations it will just become accepted and no big deal regarding its origin. This seems a bit extreme but after learning about the history of Easter, this is exactly what has transpired over a few hundred years!

As a bit of laying some ground-work let me make a few doctrinal statements. First, a basic premise of Scripture is that God has called a special people to Himself to be separate from the cultures and religious practices around them. Second, in like fashion and continuing with the concept He set up in the Old Testament, Jesus has set His Church to be apart from the rest of the world. In fact the word Church has nothing to do with a building but the people as it comes from the Greek word “ekklesia” which means “set apart” or “called out ones”! So the church is called out or set apart from the world to be holy and separate from evil practices. Those in the Church are no longer children of the devil but of God (Hosea 1:10, Galatians 3:26)

It is clear throughout the entirety of Scripture that those who God has sanctified are to have nothing to do with the unfruitful works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11) and therefore avoid all pagan practices of worship. We serve a jealous God who has purchased us with a price and He shall not share the worship that is only due Him. Paying homage to false gods is unacceptable even if done out of ignorance. We must study to show ourselves approved to God that we do need to be ashamed (2 Timothy 2:15). This really is a central theme of Scripture, particularly in context of salvation and sanctification, of which I provide only a few verses as evidence with more to follow: Leviticus 20:26, Numbers 23:8, Psalms 4:3, John 17:14-19, and Ephesians 2:1-3.

So, as we prepare to rightly worship and celebrate the victorious resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, what is it exactly that we are doing? Let me briefly explain the biblical history and precedent for this celebration that is central to Christianity (and its Jewish roots). In the book of Exodus we read of the plight of the Israelites who have now become enslaved and victimized under Pharaoh and how God remembered His promise and His people as He heard their prayers. So it is in chapters eleven and twelve of Exodus that the final plague resulting in the death of the first born is revealed. In order to escape this dreadful wrath of God an innocent lamb must be sacrificed and its blood applied to the door posts and lintel of each house as a sign that they under the blood of the lamb. God promised that when He saw the blood of the lamb that He would “pass over” that house and spare it from this final and dreadful plague.

As part of this observance of the Lord’s Passover, God instituted the celebration of the feast of unleavened bread in chapter twelve, as well as the consecration of the first-born in chapter thirteen of Exodus. It is also recorded that “…you shall observe this event as an ordnance for you and your children forever.” (Exodus 12:24) More details regarding the observance of the Lord’s Passover (Pesach), the Festival of Unleavened Bread (Hag Hamatzah) and of First Fruits (Ha Bikurim) is provided in Leviticus chapter twenty-three (Hebrew terms included in parentheses). These are the first three of four festivals celebrated by the Jews every Spring.

The word used in Leviticus translated as “appointed times” or “festivals” or “feasts” is the Hebrew word moedim (moe-ed-eem). This word is in the plural form and refers to these holy convocations or assemblies as special “appointments” made by God with His people. These very unique celebrations were established during the Exodus out of Egypt and eventually into the Promised Land. These appointed times are so tremendously significant because they foreshadowed the sacrificial death, burial and resurrection of the Messiah or anointed one of God – Yeshua/Jesus who not only led them out of bondage in Egypt but ultimately out of bondage to sin. God did indeed keep his appointments with His people and in fact all humanity in the incarnation of His Son.

It is for this reason Jesus is referred to as the first fruits (1 Corinthians 15:20-23) of the resurrection as well as the identification of those who follow Him as a kind of first fruits (Romans 8:23, James 1:18, Revelation 14:4).  The biblical name given to the celebration of first the prophetic foreshadowing and then fulfillment of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is First Fruits or in Hebrew, Ha Bikurim. The high holy days of the Lord’s Passover include the festival of unleavened bread, Passover and First Fruits. I give this information to establish the holiness and sacred nature of the observance of this eternally significant event that permits us to claim victory over sin, death, and the grave (1 Corinthians 15:55, Hosea 13:14). It is from the direct celebration of Jesus’ last earthly observance of the Lord’s Passover that we have received the Lord’s Supper, commonly called Communion (Mathew 26:17-30, 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, and 1 Corinthians 11:23-29). We see the early church celebrating these feasts in Acts 2:1, 12:3, 20:6, 16 and 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 which are rooted in the prophetic miracle of God’s appointed times fulfilled in Jesus.

So how is it then that this blessed day came to be called “Easter” and does it matter? Am I over stating the significance of using this term that originates all the way back from Noah’s grandson Nimrod who along with his wife are the progenitors of the most wide-spread post-flood pagan cult? This particular cult is singled out in the Bible and is titled in Revelation 17:5 as “Babylon the Great, the Mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.” The phrase “Mother of harlots” is significant as this cult spread to nearly all cultures in the ancient world as I will share below the many names of the goddess they worshipped. She will return in the great tribulation as her idolatrous ways are used to usher in a world-wide cultic following culminating in the worship of the anti-Christ and Satan.

The usage of the word “Easter” in association with the resurrection is relatively new in America and arose in widespread fashion around the time of the Civil War in the mid to late Nineteenth Century.  It was during this time that an influx of German Christian settlers to Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania Dutch)[1] brought their celebration of Oster which means Eastern in English and is a reference to the rising sun which daily occurs in the East.  These German settlers also brought their tradition of the Osterhase or translated “easter hare” which we all know as the “Easter Rabbit” or “Easter Bunny”.

In the shadow of the Civil War the Easter traditions of these German settlers gained widespread popularity and enthusiastic acceptance.  The celebration of Resurrection Sunday quickly became replaced by the name “Easter” along with the various traditional observances connected with this festival.  A question should be arising as to “what tradition” does this festival spring from (pun intended).

With the replacement of the very word “resurrection” it should be plain to see how the true significance of this celebration can become obscured and lose the focus on the Lord Jesus Christ and the most significant event in all of Christianity and human history! As a case in point consider the majority of discussions that surround this holiday. We hear of: Easter Rabbit/Bunny, Easter Eggs, Easter Candy, Easter Baskets, Easter Ham, Easter Dress, Easter Bonnet, Easter Parade, and so on. Where is it that the focus is on the truly significant event of The Resurrection? It is largely ignored or forgotten! Where is the focus of our children? Listen to the discussions going on in Church parking lots, Church hallways and Sunday School classrooms and take note how much focus is really on the various trappings of “Easter” rather on the Risen Lord. Who would desire to obscure the remembrance of this particular event in this way?

How was it that these German settlers obtained such a tradition in the first place? As previously noted the word “Easter” is the Anglicized version of the German “Oster” or the more ancient Saxon word “Oestre”. The Saxons were just one of many cultures from antiquity that observed this celebration that is at its roots a pagan festival of fertility cults who worship a goddess of fertility, sexuality, supposed rebirth or a kind of resurrection that is apparent in nature during the spring season. There is also a close association with the “rebirth” of the sun that occurs each day in the East as it “rises again.” It is this association with the dawn that gives the Saxon (and hence German and English) name for this goddess, Oestre. But the Bible reveals to us more details regarding this pagan cult, this mother of harlots.

Understanding now how the term “Easter” made its way to American Christian vernacular; I believe the question remains on how exactly this pagan practice make its way into Christian tradition in the first place? It is not insignificant to note that this tradition was adopted or more accurately absorbed by the Roman Catholic Church. As Roman Catholicism spread through Europe it routinely added to the “Church Traditions” all varieties of “christianized” activities such as All Saints Day or All Hallowed Eve, the veneration of saints, beatification, and even some of the Christmas traditions. Rather than fighting the pagan cultures on particular practices the Bishops adopted a more pragmatic approach seeking a syncretism of “christianizing” these practices.

So while many of the customs and the pagan name of the “Easter” celebration were maintained the newly “converted” pagans now celebrated the resurrection of Jesus in place of the legend of their pagan goddess. It is also significant to note that Satan has always pursued counterfeit of God’s glory. This includes a counterfeit resurrection story that pre-dates the earthly ministry of Jesus and is often used by skeptics to discredit the truth. I should know, I used to use this very strategy to mock Christian theology. The title for the Roman Catholic version of celebrating the resurrection became official when Emperor Constantine pronounced the judgments of the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. It is an unfortunate oversight of the reformation in Germany that this compromise was not addressed as well and was maintained which allowed it to seep into American Christian tradition as well.

Figure 1. The Queen of Heaven with Nimrod/Tammuz.

It is also pertinent regarding the history of Easter to point out that what is rightly called “Maryolotry”, that is the idolatry of the Virgin Mary in the Roman Catholic religion as “co-mediatrix” or “co-redeemer” with Christ, stems directly from the worship of Ishtar and her husband/son, Nimrod/Tammuz, whom she re-birthed in Satanic and counterfeit version of a “resurrection.” The title of this goddess, “Queen of Heaven”, was transferred to Mary and in fact many of the oldest paintings of “Virgin with Child”, are assumed to be Mary and Jesus when in truth they are Ishtar/Semaramis[2] her husband, Nimrod, reborn as her son Tammuz (Figure 1). That’s why I stated earlier that this Babylonian cult extends all the way back to Noah’s grandson Nimrod who was a major leader in Babylon and orchestrated the construction of the Tower of Babble (Genesis 10:8-10 and Micah 5:6-14). This is the same pagan worship that Jeremiah fought so vigorously and mentioned again in eschatology as the “Mother of Harlots!” Take some time to review Jeremiah’s fight against this perverse religion as he wept for God’s people who rejected their God and His prophets and sought false gods as they played the harlot and committed adultery with them (Jeremiah 2:5-3:11).

Other names for this very same goddess include: Isis (Egypt), Aphrodite (Greece), Venus (Rome), Ishtar (Phoenician), Astarte (also Phoenecian), Ashtaroth (Babylon), Semaramis (Assyria), and several others. She is considered by these cultures to be the goddess of sex, love, magic, fertility, and even war. I thought of putting images of clay tablets and statues of this goddess but the images are relatively pornographic so you are welcome to do your own research. You may be familiar with several or all of these references to this apparently ubiquitous goddess. It is this Mother of harlots that spawned the Wiccan cult, Mother Earth worship, Queen of Heaven, even the Starbucks logo and so on. It is the Babylonian moniker of this goddess, Ashtaroth, that I wish to draw your attention to specifically because it is this particular name that you will find in the Bible.

Additionally, the name of Ashtaroth is typically found in close association with Baal which is generally accepted to be the god of the heathens, namely Satan. This is also in relation to the evil god Molech who was fashioned as a bronze statue that was stoked with a fire inside a furnace at its base and children were placed in its red hot arms as a sacrifice (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Molech accepting child sacrifices as forbidden in Leviticus 20:4-5.

You may be surprised to know that the manner in which this goddess was worshipped in these various cultures included such practices as: ritualized sexual practices and prostitution, erecting phallic poles for fertility, exchanging brightly colored eggs as a symbol of pregnancy, hunting for eggs as a symbol for copulation, exchanging rabbits for their prolific mating ability, worshipping nature as it is “reborn” after the winter hibernation, the sacrifice of children in exchange for granted wishes and worshipping the rising Sun during the vernal equinox. It is from this “harlot” cult of fertility and fornication (Revelation 14:8) that the symbols of worship were transferred to a “christianized” version of “Easter.” It is this same wicked worship that the Bible references when the children of Israel are called an adulterous nation and committing harlotry.

There are also various legends surrounding this particular goddess and her unique fertility and/or life giving power either in her own “resurrection” or that of her lover (husband/son) from the underworld. Of particular interest are the phallic poles that the Bible calls in Judges 6, “Asherah” or “Ashtaroth” or “groves” or “altars” (Figure 3). Also of note is the more modern German observance in the tradition of “maypoles.” I would encourage you to look into this subject for yourself if you are not convinced of the dubious and even demonic nature of “Easter” worship. These facts confirm my assertion that the symbols of “Easter” having nothing to do with The Resurrection, but are a syncretistic perversion. Let’s take a look at how God describes this cult and its practices in His Word.

Figure 3. Examples of Asherah poles or “groves”.

In Judges 2 we read how God had brought the Israelites out of Egypt; a reference to the Exodus and therefore Passover, and how God commanded them to not associate with the false gods of the inhabitants of the land they were to possess:

And an angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you. And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this?   (Judges 2:1-2)

The Israelites were ashamed by this fact and the nation, led by Joshua repented. In typical fashion for the Israelites, and all of humanity for that matter, these people eventually forgot their promise and strayed:

And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim: And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger. And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth. 

And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies. Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil, as the Lord had said, and as the Lord had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed.  (Judges 2:11-15)

Again we see the reference to the Exodus and therefore the Passover and despite God’s faithfulness and deliverance they “did evil in the sight of the Lord.” After a period of time God raises up a man to stand against this pagan worship and again in Judges 6:8 reference is made to the Exodus (and therefore the Passover). After a visit from the Angel of the Lord, the pre-incarnate Jesus, we read in Judges 6:11-27 that Gideon is instructed to tear down the altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah and burn a sacrifice upon the wooden image that was cut down. After Gideon’s faithfulness to this task the people are angered at the destruction of their idols:

Then the men of the city said unto Joash, Bring out thy son, that he may die: because he hath cast down the altar of Baal, and because he hath cut down the grove that was by it. And Joash said unto all that stood against him, Will ye plead for Baal? will ye save him? he that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst it is yet morning: if he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one hath cast down his altar.  (Judges 6:30-31)

I believe we can clearly see that God is displeased with the false gods and in particular how they are stealing the glory from God’s miraculous work in bringing His people out of the land of Egypt during the Lord’s Passover. Very specifically in regard to the worship of Ashteroth, that is Easter. Furthermore, we see man’s idolatrous and blind dedication to these false gods despite what God has accomplished in their midst, even the salvation of their soul! Brothers and Sisters in Christ, this should not be! God commanded Gideon and all Israel to destroy and burn these images of Ashteroth, is it too much for us to flee from idolatry, to eradicate from our worship the bunny and the egg, not to mention the very name of this pornographic goddess “Easter”?! Whether we realize it or not we are sacrificing to demons! The Bible clearly declares this fact.

The Apostle Paul also makes reference to a similar practice where such idolatry is mixed with the observance of the Lord’s Supper; which we previously discussed as being the Messianic fulfillment of the Passover. This reference is found in the first letter to the church in Corinth which Paul must rebuke for ungodly behavior:

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.

Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons.

(1 Corinthians 10:14-20)

Additionally, Jesus makes this specific charge against the church in Pergamos: “But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.” (Revelation 2:14) These were the ongoing practices of the worship of the Mother of harlots, Ishtar. Easter.

I pray that it is apparent that the name of a pagan goddess should not be used as THE reference or name for the celebration of The Resurrection of our Savior and thereby replacing the biblical name for this time appointed by God. In fact this particular name in its Babylonian form is exactly what Satan has used throughout history to draw attention away from God. It has been a tactic used against the Israelites and now against Christians drawn away from worshiping our God in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). The God who frees His people from bondage. First it was the Passover that foreshadowed the death, burial and resurrection of the Lamb of God and now it is the literal fulfillment of those appointed times. Granted, in current Christian “Easter” celebrations sexual immorality is not the concern but the subtle compromise of participating in other pagan practices is.

Prayerfully consider whether your reference to “Easter” and the other traditions associated with it is giving God His due glory or has the true significance of the most significant event in human history been compromised? Next time you desire to give a greeting or celebratory acknowledgment to the Resurrection consider the history and pagan images of the idols pictured associated with Easter and reconsider calling it by its true name, The Resurrection. Do these images and symbols evoke a true sense of what we are celebrating or something very wicked? Is our allegiance to our traditions or to what the Bible prescribes? Namely, to be a people set apart and holy. I leave you with this quote from Ephesians 5:11, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” Perhaps you too can kill the bunny and smash the egg just as Joshua destroyed the altars and Asherah! Happy Resurrection Day! He Is Risen!

 

Additional Scripture citations for:

  • Ashtaroth: Judges 2:13, 10:6, 1 Samuel 7, 12, and 31
  • Asherah: Deuteronomy 16:21, Judges 6, 1 Kings 15:13, 16:33, 18:19, 2 Kings 13:6, 17:16, 18:4, 21:3. 21:7. 23:4,-15, and 2 Chronicles 15:16
  • Asheroth: Judges 3:7 and 2 Chronicles 19:3

 

Revelation 14:8

And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.

Revelation 17:5-6

And upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of harlots and abominations of the earth. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.

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[1] https://www.ancient.eu/Semiramis/

[2] https://www.etymonline.com/word/Easter