The answer to the question, ‘Is Easter a pagan holiday?’ would depend on the church tradition or religious background of whom you ask, but the reasons given are often uniform.
What I find rather frustrating is when a one-line answer is given: “We don’t celebrate Easter because it’s a pagan holiday.”
Such a dogmatic disposition helps no one. Regardless of one’s position about Easter, having a good knowledge of its history and essence is vital.
We can’t claim to be intelligent and broad-minded if we don’t investigate issues diligently to sift out fact from fiction.
Here, I will be using this article to briefly respond to some claims made in an article, “Christians Should not Celebrate Easter,” written by Femi Aribisala, the self-acclaimed religious scholar. His words will appear in blue:
Easter was smuggled into the King James Bible in Acts 12:4 where it was substituted for the original word, “Passover”
The word translated as “Easter” in the KJV in Greek (as well as Latin) is “Paschal.” It’s a derivative of the Hebrew word for “Passover.”
Although the KJV mistranslated and anachronistically employed the term “Easter,” modern translations used the proper rendering: Passover.
The Passover commemorates the Jewish exodus from Egypt in which a spotless lamb was killed (Ex. 12:3-6). Fittingly, Jesus the sinless Lamb of God, came to Jerusalem to be crucified at the time of the Passover.
Just as Passover lambs were inspected for four days by the people for any defect, Jesus was inspected for four days and the people couldn’t find any defect in Him (Matt. 21:16-22:46, Mark 11:18-12:34).
Jesus’ last supper with the disciples was the Passover meal, so His death and resurrection was tied to the timeline of this Jewish celebration.
The early Jewish Christians celebrated the Passover along with the death and resurrection of Christ which later became known as “Easter.”
In the late second century, the date for observing Easter/Passover led to “the Quartodeciman controversy” between the Alexandrian churches and those in the Roman province of Asia. This issue was later addressed at the Council of Nicea.
Easter is a pagan festival surreptitiously merged with Christianity. Noah’s son Ham, married a woman called Ashtoreth. In some cultures, Ashtoreth is called Ishtar, which is transliterated in English as Easter
These claims can make even the Easter bunnies laugh.
Ashtoreth is the pluralised name of Astarte, a Phoenician pagan goddess. Ham didn’t marry a goddess.
While Ishtar is a Babylonian form of Astarte, it has no phonetic link with the word “Easter.”
Others who seek to tie Easter to ancient paganism argue that the word “Easter” is the name of an Anglo-Saxon spring goddess, Eostre.
The only source for this claim is a work by Bede, an 8th century monk, who said that the old English word “month of Eostre” (or Paschal month) was “once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month” (Faith Wallis, Bede: The Reckoning of Time, Liverpool University, 1999, p. 54)
Historians have stated that no firm evidence for such a goddess existed. Bede’s claim could have been conjecture on his part since recent scholars cannot locate any reference to such a goddess in northern mythology.
Ronald Hutton notes that “the Anglo-Saxon ‘Estor-monath’ simply meant ‘the month of opening’ or ‘the month of beginnings’ and that Bede mistakenly connected it with a goddess who either never existed at all, or was never associated with a particular season but merely, like Eos and Aurora, with the dawn itself” (The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain, Oxford University Press, 1996, p. 181).
The term “Eostre” most likely refers to a month rather than a goddess.
Ham and Ashtoreth gave birth to a son called Nimrod. After Ham’s death, Nimrod married Ashtoreth, his own mother and became a powerful king of ancient Babylon. When Nimrod was also killed, Ashtoreth deified him as sun-god or life giver. Indeed, Easter means “movement towards the sun”
This is a drivel straight from the stables of Chick Publications and it can only fool simple minds that crave for old wives’ tales.
Ham was already married before entering Noah’s ark and he’s called “the father of Canaan,” so he couldn’t have been the father of Nimrod, the king of Babylon (see Gen. 6:18; 9:18).
Ham and Nimrod didn’t even live in the same century! There’s no historical record of Nimrod let alone of him being deified.
Mr. Aribisala is here presenting a version of the old, disproved Nimrod, Semiramis and Tammuz hypothesis which no modern scholar takes with any level of seriousness.
Earlier, he claimed “Easter” was a goddess’ name, now he links it with a sun god. He couldn’t even convince himself.
Because of their prolific nature in reproduction, rabbits were associated with Ishtar, the goddess of fertility
This is false. Ishtar’s emblems are lions, dragons, gates and an 8-pointed star.
The Encyclopedia of Ancient Deities, says this about Ishtar:
“Sometimes she is shown holding her symbol, the eight pointed star… The lion, bull, and dragon are Ishtar’s emblems” (Russell Coulter and Patricia Turner, Fitzroy Dearborn: London, 2000 p. 242).
Occult/New Age researcher, Deanna Conway noted that:
“lshtar had a lion throne and double serpent scepter; some times, She was pictured accompanied by dragons” (Maiden, Mother and Crone: The Myth and Reality of the Triple Goddess, Llewellyn: MN, 1997, p. 60)
Easter eggs and rabbits have no link with Ishtar and they have no link with Christ’s death and resurrection either. These are obviously folk traditions integrated into the celebration.
I need to ask those peddling these groundless claims about Easter, who is it that worships a goddess on Easter? I know about many Christians who at Easter worship “the MAN Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5), who rose from the dead—but I don’t know of any who worship a goddess.
Even with the unbiblical emphasis that many Roman Catholics place on Mary, it’s intriguing to note that Easter is not Mary’s day!
Aside this, when it comes to issues not explicitly stated in Scripture, “Every person must make his own decisions” (Rom. 14:5). Christians who don’t celebrate Easter should not condemn those who do and vice versa.
Whether or not a Christian observes a certain day has no bearing on his/her salvation. We “don’t receive God’s approval because of [our] own efforts to live according to a set of standards, but only by believing in Jesus Christ” (Gal. 2:16).