Should You Observe Easter
or the Messianic Passover?
Question: Why does only the KJV not say "Passover" in Acts 12:4? The King James translates pascha as "Passover" 28 times, in every other place it appears in the New Testament. Why not in Acts 12:4?
Answer: "Passover" is NOT the correct translation of pascha, in this single New Testament passage. This is one of the many wonderful proofs that the KJV is the only Holy Bible. It shows how that the translators of the KJV, the ONLY Holy Bible, were as inspired as the Apostles, as they did the work of the 7th purification of the Word of God promised in Psalm 12:6-7. If we examine the Passover celebration and Days of Unleavened Bread from the Old Testament, we will see why Acts 12:4 cannot be about Passover, and is correctly translated Easter.
(NKJV, NIV, RSV, NASB, MSG, AMP, ESV, ASV, WE, YLT, DARBY, WYC, NIV-UK and NNAS version perversions are ALL IN ERROR in how they translated that verse. As ALWAYS, the KJV Holy Bible has it correct.)
When Are the Days of Unleavened Bread?
Here is what the Bible says in Acts 12:1-4
Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.
And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.
And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)
And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.
Please note the time in which the apostle James was killed: "These were the days of unleavened bread." When were these days?
The Bible is very specific. In Leviticus 23:5-8 and Numbers 28:16-25 we find two very clear definitions of the days of Passover and the Feast / Days of Unleavened Bread.
Passover (Hebrew: Pesach) occurs on the 14th day of the first month at even (starting at sunset).
The Feast and Days of Unleavened Bread start after Passover, on the 15th day of that month (Numbers 28:17) and continuing through the 21st day. Both the 15th and 21st days were treated as Sabbath days, days of worship and not of "servile work" (Lev. 23:7-8; Num. 28:18, 25).
The Bible tells us clearly: Passover is before the Days of Unleavened Bread, not after.
What Was Herod Talking About?
A simple summary of the Scriptures will help us understand. The Bible says Herod killed the apostle James (John's brother) with the sword. Then he took the apostle Peter as well. Those days were the Days of Unleavened Bread when he did this. But while Herod wanted to put Peter in front of the people, (intending to kill him with their approval), he decided to wait for something the Greek calls pascha. Then he would bring out Peter.
Here is a simple order to keep in mind:
Passover (14 Abib), then Days of Unleavened Bread (15-21 Abib), then pascha.
Please note that Passover was before the Days of Unleavened Bread, and this pascha Herod was waiting for was after the Days of Unleavened Bread. Therefore while Herod may have been waiting for Easter (the feast of Ishtar*, which the Greeks also called pascha), he was not waiting for Passover. That is why the King James Bible, in this single instance, had to translate pascha by a word other than Passover.
The translators of the King James knew their Bible. Do the translators of the modern versions?
This spring, most of Christendom will observe the ancient rite of Easter, saying that it commemorates Messiah's resurrection. Many who do so acknowledge that the name, Easter, and its seasonal observance long predate Christianity--in paganism! However, they reason that since it is now a widely accepted, traditional Christian practice, Messiah appreciates it.
But other people look in the Bible and come to a different conclusion. These Messianic Believers will observe the Messianic Passover as Yeshua originally ordained it and as the early Church originally observed it.
How did the Easter celebration come into Christianity? Do the Scriptures give us guidance about selecting religious traditions and practices for observance? To which did Messiah say we should keep a memorial--His sacrifice or His resurrection?
"Christianizing" the Festivals of Ancient Sex Goddesses?
The origins of pre-Messianic Easter festivals in pagan cultures are well-known in history. In the ancient world, some of the greatest female deities were the various incarnations of the great fertility goddesses known as Ishtar (Babylonian), Astarte (Phoenician), Atargatis (Philistine), Ashtoreth (Hebrew), Eastre(Anglo-Saxon), Ostara (German) and Aphrodite (Greek).
These goddesses are regarded as essentially the same deity due to the similarities of their names, mythologies, worship and festivals. These factors are what define a deity as its worship moves between cultures. The primary fertility festivals for these deities--and their associated male gods--were in the spring, a time of renewal and birth.
In The Myth of the Goddess, Anne Baring and Jules Cashford write, "Now we read everywhere of goddesses and gods who take their being from one Primordial Goddess who is the origin of all things.... She is single yet she marries; she is a virgin and mother; and sometimes her son becomes her consort. As before, she gives life and takes it away. The goddess has many names and many different tales are told about her, but one story is unvarying throughout the Near East. The goddess becomes separated from the one she loves, who dies or seems to die, and falls into a darkness called 'the Underworld.' This separation is reflected in nature as a loss of light and fertility. The goddess descends to overcome the darkness so that her loved one may return to the light, and life may continue.
"Aphrodite is primarily a descendant of the Mesopotamian Goddess Inanna-Ishtar, who became Astarte in Phoenicia and was called Atargatis by the Philistines, and Ashtoreth by the Hebrews. Inanna's consort, Dumuzi, and Ishtar's Tammuz became, in the Greek tradition, Aphrodite's Adonis, the dying and resurrected son-lover of the goddess in a new form.
"The Greek goddess Aphrodite loses her lover, the beautiful Adonis.... Now the goddess no longer rescues him herself, but has to ask the g-d Zeus to allow him to return to life from spring to autumn, the fertile season of the earth. Finally, Yeshua, son of the Virgin Mother, Mary, dies.... Messiah is 'rescued' by his Father in Heaven, but, like the others, his return coincides with the date of the earth's regeneration. Easter is celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox, so that Messiah's resurrection, like those before him, also reflects the turning of winter into spring" (pp. 145-147, 359).
Another author, Joseph Campbell, drew the conclusion that the Messianic practice of Easter "occurs on the date of the annual resurrection of Adonis, which in the Messianic cult became Easter. In both the pagan cult and the Messianic, the resurrection is of a g-d" (Occidental Mythology, p. 138).
These authors are expressing a view commonly held among modern, secular historians that there was a significant continuity in "Christianized" Gentile cultures with their pagan past. They had a tendency, over time, to superimpose Messianic themes as a veneer over their existing pagan practices, which were already deeply ingrained in their societies and psyches. They are saying that in history, the Messianic version of Easter as a memorial to Messiah's resurrection is essentially a modification of an earlier pagan resurrection festival. The practice did not originate in Christianity.
Unfortunately, when the Gentile churches reverted to the cultural rites that they were more comfortable with, they abandoned essential instructions from Messiah and the apostles. While it is true that most of Christendom observes Easter saying that it commemorates Messiah's resurrection, the observance that the Bible actually ordains for Messiah is not a memorial specifically to His resurrection but, quite the opposite, a memorial to His sacrificial death.
It is important to remember that, as the above quotes show, by the time of Messiah and the early Messianic Church, the Gentile cultures of Asia Minor and the Mediterranean already had ancient cultural roots involving spring festivals associated with fertility, rebirth and resurrection. These fertility festivals occurred around the time of the Passover when the paschal lamb was sacrificed by Jews as a memorial of the Exodus. But when Messiah instructed His followers to keep the Passover with a new, Messianic meaning, it became a memorial to His sacrifice as the Lamb of G-d--not a memorial to His resurrection. Messiah avoided confusing the meaning of His memorial with the well-known pagan customs of His time and antiquity.
Actually, the time of the saints' resurrection from the dead at the return of Yeshua Messiah (1 Cor. 15:12-20, 50-52) is pictured by the Feast of Trumpets, which takes place during the fall Holy Days (Lev. 23:24), not during the spring. As we shall see shortly, the practice and the meaning of the Messianic Passover are explicitly taught in the Bible and were taught by the first century, apostolic Church.
Yet, as Christianity spread into Gentile areas, with passing generations, some churches tended to gravitate back toward prior pagan cultural practices of their own societies and away from religious practices for which some in their societies held negative associations with Judaism.
As a result, the proper observance of Pascha, or Passover, was changed both in its time and meaning. Historians in orthodox Christianity acknowledge the transformation. The New Catholic Encyclopedia explains, "Not only was the significance of the Jewish feast changed by the Messianic Believers, but also the date. The Jewish method of fixing the date, the 14th of Nisan, did not confine it to any one [Roman calendar] day; at a very early time [Roman] Messianic Believers assigned their Pascha to the Sunday following the Jewish feast" (1967, vol. 5, p. 7). Pascha is Latin for Passover. But upon the change of date and meaning, this celebration is more appropriately identified by the English word 'Easter.'
"The Asiatic practice in the 2nd century of observing Easter [Pasch] on the day of the Jewish Passover conflicted with the Roman custom of celebrating Easter on Sunday, the day of the Resurrection.... Originally both observances were allowed, but gradually it was felt incongruous that Messianic Believers should celebrate Easter on a Jewish feast, and unity in celebrating the principal Messianic feast was called for" (p. 8).
"Quartodecimanism [the practice of observing Pascha or Passover on Nisan 14 of the Hebrew calendar], prevalent in Asia Minor and Syria in the 2nd century, emphasized the death of Messiah, the true Paschal victim (John 18:28; 19:42), while Roman practice emphasized the observance of Sunday as the day of the Resurrection.... As Christianity separated from Judaism, Gentile Messianic Believers objected to observing the principal Messianic feast on the same day as the Jewish Passover" (vol. 12, p. 13).
Christianized Veneer or Solid Scriptural Practice?
It is clear that Easter is a Christianized pagan festival! While many who celebrate Easter acknowledge this, they argue that doing it in honor of Messiah makes it okay. But in His Word, G-d strongly condemns this kind of reasoning and practice. Notice how He instructed Israel:
Deu 12:29 When the
LORD thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither
thou goest to possess them, and thou succeedest them, and
dwellest in their land;
Deu 12:30 Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise.
Deu 12:31 Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods.
Deu 12:32 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
G-d clearly tells us to avoid recycling pagan religious customs for His worship. We are to worship G-d as He instructs, not as we might reason on our own. Keeping Easter certainly adds to what G-d instructed, and as we shall see, rejecting the Messianic Passover certainly takes away from what we are told to do as Messianic Believers.
Messiah)He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias
prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people
honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.
Mark 7:7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
Mark 7:8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.
And Paul cautioned the Romans 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
The Gospels' Witness About What to Do
Some people may be surprised to learn that the New Testament gospels have a lot to say about the actual practice that Yeshua and His disciples followed the night before Yeshua' death: "And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat.'... And they went, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover. And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. 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 22:8, 13-20). Earlier, He had washed the disciples' feet and instructed them to do the same for each other (John 13:1-15).
Messiah said that they were eating the Passover and that they should "do this in remembrance of Me." When you celebrate Passover, you know that is what He was doing with them and the washing of the FEET took the service to one another beyond the traditional hand washing part of the the Passover celebration of this important Feast of the Lord. He commanded them AND US to keep that night as a memorial to Him, and He showed them the manner in which to keep it, using unleavened bread as a symbol of His body and wine as a symbol of His blood.
When Should This Paschal Worship Take Place?
Now notice on what day of the Hebrew calendar these events took place. It is important to note that by Israelite reckoning, a day begins at sunset and ends with sunset the next day.
The Jewish Passover, which is a high day and a Sabbath, falls on Nisan 15 of the Hebrew calendar and begins at the evening ending Nisan 14 (Lev. 23:5-6). In the time of Messiah, the Jews killed the Passover lamb the afternoon of Nisan 14 at about the hour Messiah, the Lamb of G-d, died at the hands of the Romans. Messiah's last supper took place at the beginning of Nisan 14, on the evening before the crucifixion. That night He was betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter and beaten before the high priest (Matt. 26:30-75; John 18:1-27).
The following morning--still Nisan 14--He was tried by Pilate, condemned, scourged and crucified (Matt. 27; John 18:28-40). Notice in John 19:31 that Messiah had to be buried before evening "because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day)." These scriptures show conclusively that the
Passover memorial that Messiah ordained was on the evening that began Nisan 14. This was the evening before the Jewish Passover celebration, which was held in the evening beginning Nisan 15.
The Meaning Behind the Symbols
We now have seen what Messiah instructed His followers to observe as a memorial to Him, and when they were to keep it. But why did He say to do this? The Apostle John preserved Yeshua's explanation of the why of the Passover bread and wine in his gospel:
John 6:48 I am
that bread of life.
John 6:49 Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.
John 6:50 This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.
John 6:51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
John 6:52 The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?
John 6:53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.
John 6:54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
Messiah is Our Passover
The events described in the book of Exodus prefigured the death and purpose of the true Passover Lamb. The Israelites were instructed to take a lamb to be slain. "Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year.... Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day... the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. Then they shall eat the flesh on that night.... For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn.... Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you" (12:5-8, 12-13).
The events of the Exodus pictured what would be fulfilled later in Yeshua Messiah. Yeshua Messiah, the Lamb of G-d, is our Passover sacrifice. As the Apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians, "For indeed Messiah, our Passover, was sacrificed for us" (1 Cor. 5:7).
Messiah's sacrifice is absolutely essential for our salvation, because without it our sins cannot be forgiven. The Bible teaches that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of G-d" (Rom. 3:23), and that "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of G-d is eternal life through Yeshua Messiah our L-rd" (Rom. 6:23). Through the blood of the Lamb of G-d (John 1:29), our sins are forgiven--passed over--and we are reconciled with the Father.
We cannot give ourselves eternal life. Good works and repentance from sin are the results of our living faith, but all the good works in the world cannot save us, because our works do not justify our past sins. Only the blood of Yeshua Messiah does that, and only G-d has eternal life to give. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of G-d, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9).
Notice how Paul explained it in Romans 5:8-9: "G-d demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Messiah died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood..." Paul reveals that by Messiah's sacrifice we are now cleansed from our past sins. Continuing, he said, "We shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to G-d through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (vv. 9-10).
We have a living, resurrected Savior, and our hope for eternal life is by resurrection through Him. Yeshua Messiah's resurrection is of great importance to Messianic Believers, but we were not given a spring festival to commemorate it.
The Apostle Paul's Teaching
What did the Apostolic Church teach and practice? When instructing the Church at Corinth, Paul wrote, "For I received from the L-rd that which I also delivered to you: that the L-rd Yeshua on the same night in which He was betrayed [the evening of the beginning of Nisan 14] took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, 'Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.' In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.' For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the L-rd's death till He comes" (1 Cor. 11:23-26).
This is an explicit instruction from Paul for the Church to keep the Passover as a memorial--at the very same time, in the same manner and with the same meaning that Messiah instructed His disciples.
Whereas the Messianic Passover pictures the forgiveness of sins through the sacrifice of the Lamb of G-d, the Days of Unleavened Bread--the week following the Passover--also have great meaning for Messianic Believers. During the Days of Unleavened Bread, the Israelites were to have put all leavening out of their homes (Deut. 16:3-4). Leavening is a biblical symbol for sin, and the removal of leavening foreshadowed the cleansing of Messianic Believers, from sin and also prefigured the ongoing repentance from the sin that takes place after an individual accepts Yeshua as L-rd and Savior.
The Apostle Paul commanded the Corinthians, "Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Messiah, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Cor. 5:7-8).
In the Bible, we have clear instructions from the Apostle Paul and Yeshua Messiah concerning the time, manner and meaning of the observance of the Messianic Passover. While it is clear that this was the teaching and practice of Paul and the Corinthian Church, it is also interesting to note that this doctrine continued into the second, third and fourth centuries A.D. in the churches in Asia Minor, which were raised up by Paul and frequented by the Apostle John in his old age.
The Roman church, which advocated the observance of Easter, labeled those who continued the practice of observing a Messianic Passover on Nisan 14 as "Quartodecimans"--from the Latin for "four and ten." The eastern or Asiatic churches, however, insisted on continuing in the faith delivered to them by the apostles.
Polycarp, a disciple of the Apostle John and Bishop of Smyrna, debated the issue with Pope Anicetus (c. 155 A.D.) and asserted that he had been personally taught the proper observance by the Apostle John.
Later, "an attempt by Pope Victor I (189-198 A.D.) to impose Roman usage [Easter] proved unsuccessful in the face of a determined opposition led by Polycrates, Bishop of Ephesus [a church founded by the Apostle Paul].... All accepted the Roman practice except the Asiatic bishops. When Victor attempted coercion by excommunication, St. Iranaeus of Lyons intervened to restore peace (Eusebius, History Ecclesiastical, 5. 23-25). During the 3rd century Quartodecimanism waned (it had to go underground); it persisted in some Asiatic communities down to the 5th century" (New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967, vol. 5, p. 8; vol. 12, p. 13).
The fact that this practice dropped out of sight is not surprising. The Messianic Believers who continued to keep the Passover, commanded and observed by Jesus and the Apostles were excommunicated and made anathema by the Roman church in the fourth century. Many suffered terrible persecution and were martyred by Rome for their Faith and obedience to the commands of the Lord. It is clear that the Asiatic churches considered the keeping of the Passover on Nisan 14 to be an extremely important doctrine!
Actually, the practice of observing the Messianic Passover did not die out, but continues today as a faithful observance by the saints scattered abroad every spring on the evening beginning Nisan 14.
The Bible teaches that it is important for us to worship G-d as He commands--and to commemorate Messiah as He taught. We should not borrow religious practices from pagan cultures! This spring, most of ChristenDUMB will keep Easter, but some Messianic Believers, who faithfully follow Yeshua's instructions and the examples of the Apostles, will joyfully continue the observance of the Messianic Passover. What about you?