The single greatest event recorded in the Bible is the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
It is because of His tremendous sacrifice we have hope; because of the Almighty’s great love for us “while we were yet sinners”, we have a reason for joyful living each day.
Christians around the world will be celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ this Easter not realizing that all of its traditions were derived from pagan sources thousands of years before Christ.
As Christians, we must be astute in what we do and why we do it. Researching the origins of Easter, as well as Christmas, is a fascinating, albeit alarming, study of how Christian tenets have been superimposed over the abominable practices and ungodly belief systems of the ancient Babylonians.
Did you know?–
- The word Easter comes from the word Ishtar. Ishtar was the Babylonian fertility goddess who, along with her deity-husband Tammuz, were worshipped in springtime festivals.
- Ancient cultures around the world had their own names for the deity pair: Osiris and Isis, Attic and Cybele, and Adonis and Aphrodite, to name a few.
- According to myth, every year Tammuz, sun-god of the Sumerians, and god of agriculture, dies at the beginning of the winter solstice only to be resurrected by Ishtar in the spring.
- Fertility and reproduction symbols were revered in these pagan cultures, hence the use of eggs, rabbits, etc.
- The Babylonians also represent Tammuz as a handsome shepherd who was slain by a wild boar at the age of forty. Ishtar long mourned for him and descended into the underworld to deliver him from death. This mourning for Tammuz lasted forty days, one day for each of his years (the forerunner to the forty days of Lent). Ezekiel records what God had shown him concerning this, “He said also unto me, Turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations that they do. Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the Lord’s house…and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz.” Ezekiel 8:13-14
- The worship of Tammuz and Ishtar eventually spread to Biblical Israel in the form of Baal and Ashtoreth (Ashtaroth, Astarte), and the queen of heaven. Judges 2:13; 1 Sam. 12:10; 1 Kings 11:5, 33; 2 Kings 23:13; Jeremiah 7:18, 44:17-19, 25
What all these deities and their ritual worship festivals have in common is the death and resurrection theme–a forerunner to modern Easter worship.
Satan seeks to counterfeit every part of God’s plan.
He is the god of confusion.
He deceives the whole world. (Rev. 12:9)
When God instituted holy days for His people, He never used a man-made template as a starting point or allowed the unholy worship practices of other nations to be used.
He specifically forbade His people from going after other religious customs and ceremonies.
When the Lord thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee…take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them…and that inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. Deut. 12:28-32
Jeremiah the prophet repeatedly warned the Israelites about their idolatrous practices, among these the worship of the queen of heaven (Ishtar, Ashtoreth), but they refused to heed. (Jer. 44:17-19)
God spoke to Jeremiah saying,
Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?
The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they provoke me to anger. Jer. 7:18
These cakes are the precursor to ‘hot cross buns’ of modern Easter lore.
The sunrise service is a common Easter practice. Does God have something to say about this?
Then said he unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these.
And he brought me into the inner court of the Lord’s house… and, behold… between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east. Ezekiel 8:15-16
Is God still honored when we decide to change the meaning of something that He pronounced abominable?
If something is abominable to God, how can we dress it up as something else (e.g. Christ worship) and expect God to be pleased?
…what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?..
2 Corinthians 6:15-16a
Easter was not celebrated by the early Christians, so how did these pagan practices become acceptable to the later church?
There are reams of information on how Easter came to be instituted, which is beyond the scope of this post, but the simple answer is greed.
Several decades after the death of the Apostles, the church at Rome became dominant, and more interested in its political and financial power than adhering to the true doctrines of Christ. Determined to bring the masses of pagans into the church, Orthodox leaders took measures to get Christian and pagan festivals amalgamated.
But this created a great rift within the church leadership; many refused to follow along.
In AD 197, Polycrates, the bishop of Ephesus and representative of the Asian churches, addressed a letter to Victor, the bishop of Rome, saying, “we observe the exact day [of Passover]; neither adding or taking away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep; which shall rise again in the day of the Lord’s coming, when He shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles…and John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined on the bosom of the Lord…and Polycarp of Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr…All these observed the fourteenth day of Passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith.” (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book V)
But standing up against the religious powers within proved difficult. He was later excommunicated.
Finally in the fourth century, the Roman emperor Constantine, in part to rid the church of Jewish influence, decreed that Easter Sunday take the place of Passover.
Many faithful Christians were unwilling to accept the unbiblical Roman decree, and eventually Theodosius, a later Roman Emperor, ordered the death penalty for those who refused.
To keep oneself unspotted from the world is an arduous task. To row against the tide of commonly-held ‘Christian’ beliefs equally so.
As Christians, we are called to distinguish between the holy and the profane, between the clean and unclean. (Eze. 22:26)
We are God’s peculiar treasure. (Psalm 135:4) We are to heed His call to “…come out from among them and be ye separate,..and touch not the unclean thing…” 2 Cor. 6:17
Nowhere in the New Testament does God command us to worship the resurrection of His Son, but the night before Christ became our Passover Lamb, He did ask us to commemorate His death.
And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.
Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. Luke 22:19-20
Paul later expounded upon this in 1 Cor. 11:26, “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.”
Whether this means every day or an annual event, we Christians look forward to His return when we do this as a memorial to Him.
For Christ said–
…this do in remembrance of me.
Abiding in the Vine,
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The post “Why I Don’t Keep Easter” was first published on Desert Rain.
Header photo credit: Fabryka bombek / Baubles manufactory via photopin (license)