An article by Will Kinney, used with permission.
Note to self: the article details early Christian observance of Easter. Ponder how this fits in with the Protestant/Reformed/Puritan Regulative Principle of Worship and the prohibition on observing manmade holy days, including Easter, as discussed in:
- Easter: A Satanic, Demonic, Pagan, Roman Catholic Holy Day Which God Abhors (A Violation of the Second and Fourth Commandments) by Matthew McMahon
- Easter and Holy Week from Proto-Protestantism
- Easter: The Devil’s Holiday from A Puritan’s Mind
- Why No Christmas or Easter? from Loughbrickland Reformed Presbyterian Church
And now Will Kinney’s article:
Easter is the correct word in Acts 12:4 and this is why
Note: You can now listen to a teaching video about Easter in Acts 12:4 and why it is the correct word on Youtube –
Is the word “Easter” an error in the King James Bible?
In Acts 12:4 we are told of Peter being taken prisoner by Herod. “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.”
Definition and origin of the English word “Easter”
Webster’s 1828 dictionary Easter – A festival of the christian church observed in commemoration of our Savior’s resurrection. It answers to the pascha or passover of the Hebrews, and most nations still give it this name, pascha, pask, paque.
American Heritage Dictionary of the English language 5th edition, 2011 – Easter: Derivatives include East, Easter, aurora, aur – See page 2037. Easter, from Old English eastre, Easter, from Germanic austron – dawn. – the direction of the sunrise. 1.b. Ostmark – from the Old High German ostan, east. Both are from Germanic aust – eastern. 1. A Christian feast commemorating the Resurrection of Jesus. 2. The day on which this feast is observed, the first Sunday following the full moon that occurs on or next after the vernal equinox. — Page 2037 aur – to shine (said especially of the dawn)
Merriam Webster’s New World College Dictionar, 4th edition. Easter – Middle English estre, from Old English ēastre; akin to Old High German ōstarun (plural) Easter, Old English ēast east
The Greek word paska (τὸ πάσχα) means Easter today. The Oxford Greek-English Learner’s Dicionary 2012 lists the word (τὸ πάσχα) and the very first definition is Easter. The second one is Passover. The same is true of the Collins Greek-English Dicitonary 2003, and in Divry’s Modern English-Greek Dictionary 1991. All three of these modern Greek-English Dictionaries list Easter as the first meaning, and Passover as the second meaning.
Here is an online Greek translation site that is very easy to use. Just click on the link and go to the site. On the left hand side you can type in the Greek word Pascha, or on the right hand side you can type in the word Easter. See what the Greek word means, and how to say Easter in Greek.
There are two very different views among King James Bible believers concerning the meaning and significance of the word Easter as found in Acts 12:4. One view is that Easter was in fact the name of the Anglo-Saxon pagan goddess of spring and that Herod was waiting till after this pagan holiday was over before he was going to have Peter killed. There are however many serious problems with this view. Number one is the fact that the pagan goddess was named Eoestre or Eastre or some say Ishtar or Astarte (all different gods and goddesses), but the name is not Easter.
The King James Bible translators did not have some sort of a collective “senior moment”, and though they translated the Greek word paska as Passover some 28 times, suddenly they had some sort of a memory slip and make it Easter this one time in Acts 12:4. And they also knew how to spell English words correctly. There is no way that they really meant to say Eostre instead of Easter.
If the King James Bible had read: “intending after Ishtar” or “intending after Eoestre”, they might have a case for their argument. But it clearly does not read that way. It says: “intending after EASTER to bring him forth to the people.”
Let’s look at it from the Greek side of things. The Greek word used here is clearly πάσχα or paska. There is NO way on God’s green earth that the Greek word πάσχα can possibly mean anything remotely like “Eoestre” or “Ishtar”. The King James Bible translators were not morons. They knew exactly what this word means and it means EASTER, particularly when it applies to the yearly celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that is what they wrote. The second major problem with this view is that Herod was an Edomite and probably a Roman citizen, but by no stretch of the imagination was he an Anglo-Saxon.
The term Anglo-Saxon designates the population in Britain partly descended from the Germanic tribes who migrated from Europe and settled the south and east of the island beginning in the early 5th century, and the period after their initial settlement through their creation of the English nation up to the Norman conquest. The Anglo-Saxon era denotes the period of English history between about 550 and 1066. The term can be used for the language, also known as Old English, that was spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons in England (and parts of south-eastern Scotland) between at least the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century, after which it is known as Middle English.
So it would be more than a little difficult to have a Roman/Edomite king in the first century celebrating an Anglo-Saxon pagan goddess who was never acknowledged among the Romans and in fact did not even exist until some 4 to 5 centuries later. About the only thing the term Easter and the Anglo-Saxon Eoestre could possibly have in common is that they are both derived from the Middle English word “east” meaning simply the East. Aside from that, it’s a theory totally devoid of and contrary to all known historical facts.
Here is part of a very long sermon given by Lancelot Andrews, one of the original KJB translators, in 1618
- Lancelot Andrewes Works, Sermons, Volume Two (In case you don’t know, Lancelot Andrewes was one of the King James Bible translators.)
- Sermons of the Resurrection Preached Upon Easter-Day, 1618.
Preached before King James, at Whitehall, on Sunday the Fifth of April, A. D. MDCXVIII – 404- 428
Transcribed by Dr. Marianne Dorman – AD 2002
Text 1 Corinthians xi:16
- Tyndale also translated several N.T. passages as “the Easterlamb” instead of “the Passover lamb”. Clearly he was not referring to some mythical pagan goddess called Eostre. If people would actually do some research on the Eostre thingy, and not just believe what men like Hisslop have said, there is a lot of doubt that such a thing even existed or was practiced.
- 1 Corinthians 5:7Tyndale 1534 – “Pourge therfore the olde leven that ye maye be newe dowe as ye are swete breed. For Christ OURE ESTERLAMBE is offered vp for vs.”
Coverdale 1535 – “Pourge out therfore the olde leuen, that ye maye be new dowe, like as ye are swete bred. For we also haue an EASTER LAMBE, which is Christ, that is offred for vs.”
Matthew’s Bible 1549 – “For Christ oure EASTERLAMBE is offered vp for vs.”
There is NO way on earth that the underlying Greek word paska can even remotely be translated as Eostre or Ashteroth. It has nothing at all to do with these things. Never did; never will. I think it was out of some misguided attempt to try to defend the KJB’s “Easter” that some over active imaginations came up with this Eostre thing as a possible explanation. But it is entirely wrong at every level. Had it said Eostre and not Easter, they may have had a point of some kind. But it doesn’t say that, does it. No, the KJB and previous English bibles say Easter, and even in places where it wasn’t correct to do so – like when they place Easter in the place of Passover. But here in Acts 12:4 it makes sense, because it is the only post resurrection mention of the paska, which for the Christian is now Easter.
The second view, and the one being increasingly accepted among King James Bible believers who have done a little more research into this matter, is that it really means Easter as Christians all over the world in many languages understand the word – a yearly celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
For another brother’s excellent study on the meaning of Easter as found in Acts 12:4 see his article here at KJV For Today – http://www.kjvtoday.com/home/easter-or-passover-in-acts-124
And here is an excellent study on the use of Easter in Acts 12:4 by Oakwood Baptist Church. I think this brother has hit on the right reason why Herod wanted to wait till “after Easter to bring Peter forth to the people.”
How Easter Got Its Name
The Greek word translated as Easter is pascha. Some say the word should only be translated as Passover and not Easter. The KJV is not alone in translating this word as Easter. The Tyndale 1525, Coverdale 1535, Cranmer’s bible (The Great Bible) 1540, Matthew’s Bible 1549, Bishop’s Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1557 edition – all preceding the King James Bible.
Then we have The Bill Bible 1671, Mace’s New Testament 1729, the Thomas Pyle Paraphrase New Testament 1795 (Clarke N.T.), the modern KJV 21st Century Version 1994, the Third Millenium Bible 1998, God’s First Truth 1999, the Evidence Bible 2003, the Bond Slave Version 2009 and the BRG Bible 2012 all read “after EASTER” in Acts 12:4.
Martin Luther also translated this word as Easter in 1545, and the German Luther version of 1912 also reads Easter (Ostern). The German word for Passover is a completely different word. In German today they express Happy Easter by saying “Frohe Ostern”.
Likewise the 2009 Romanian Fidela Bible reads Easter in Acts 12:4 – Pasti. Just go to a good Romanian dictionary or translation site and type in the word Pasti; the translation is “Easter”. Romanian – Paste Fericit! = Happy Easter!
The Romanian Fidela Bible of 2009 reads in Acts 12:4 – “Și după ce l-a prins, l-a pus în închisoare şi l-a predat la patru grupe de patru soldaţi să îl păzească, vrând, după Paşti, să îl ducă înaintea poporului.” And the translation is: “And when caught, put in jail and handed him over to four groups of four soldiers to guard him, wanting after EASTER to bring him before the people.”
A note regarding Fidela’s (Romanian) use of “Paşti” in Acts 12:4. – The alternative spelling “Paşti” was used to match the KJB “Easter” [and of course Acts 12:4 is the only place where “Paşti” is used in Fidela], whereas the word used for Passover in Fidela is “paşte”. There is no other way to keep them distinct in Romanian.
When the Geneva Old Testament was published in 1560, the New Testament was revised and at that time “Easter” was changed to “passover.” The Oxford English dictionary tells us that “Easter is one of the great festivals of the Christian church, commemorating the resurrection of Christ, and corresponding to the Jewish Passover, the name of which (Easter) it bears in most of the European languages.
Greek -Καλό πάσχα (Kaló pásha)= Happy Easter; Hebrew – pe’sah; Latin – Prospera Pascha sit = Happy Easter; French – Joyeuses Pâques = Happy Easter; Danish – God påske = Happy Easter; Russian – Пасха; Romanian – Paste Fericit! = Happy Easter; Portuguese – Feliz Páscoa = Happy Easter; Italian – Buona Pasqua = Happy Easter; Indonesian – Selamat Paskah = Happy Easter; Albanian – Gëzuar Pashkët = Happy Easter; Catalan (Spoken in Spain) Bona Pasqua = Happy Easter; Chamorro – Felis Påsgua = Happy Easter; Corsican – Bona Pasqua = Happy Easter; Dutch – Vrolijk Pasen = Happy Easter; Galician – Boas Pascuas = Happy Easter; Hawaiian – Hau ʻoli Pakoa = Happy Easter; Modern Hebrew – chag pascha same’ach = Happy Easter; Icelandic – Gleðilega páska = Happy Easter; Norwegian – God påske = Happy Easter; Swahili – Heri kwa sikukuu ya PASAKA = Happy Easter; Tagalog – Maligayang PASKO ng pagkabuhay = Happy Easter; Turkish – PASKALYA yortunuz kutlu olsun = Happy Easter; Welsh – Pasg Hapus = Happy Easter; Zulu – IPHASIKA elijabulayo = Happy Easter; Spanish – Feliz pascua = Happy Easter.”
The Encyclopedia Britannica relates concerning the origin of the word Easter: -“The English word Easter, which parallels the German word Ostern, is of uncertain origin. One view, expounded by the Venerable Bede in the 8th century, was that it derived from Eostre, or Eostrae, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility. This view presumes—as does the view associating the origin or Christmas on December 25 with pagan celebrations of the winter equinox—that Christians appropriated pagan names and holidays for their highest festivals. GIVEN THE DETERMINATION WITH WHICH CHRISTIANS COMBATED ALL FORMS OF PAGANISM, THIS APPEARS A RATHER DUBIOUS PRESUMPTION. THERE IS NOW WIDESPREAD CONSENSUS THAT THE WORD DERIVES FROM THE CHRISTIAN DESIGNATION OF EASTER WEEK AS IN ALBIS, A LATIN PHRASE THAT WAS UNDERSTOOD AS THE PLURAL OF ALBE (“DAWN”) AND BECAME EOSTARUM IN OLD HIGH GERMAN, THE PRECURSOR OF THE MODERN GERMAN AND ENGLISH TERM. THE LATIN AND GREEK PASCHA (PASSOVER) PROVIDES THE ROOT FOR Pâcques, THE FRENCH WORD FOR EASTER.”
Eusebius’ testimony is clear that the Apostles were already celebrating the “Saviour’s Pascha”, which is clearly not the “Jews’ Pascha”:
The Encyclopedia Britannica 1911 edition has this to say regarding the early Christian celebration of Easter. “Although the observance of Easter was at A VERY EARLY PERIOD IN THE PRACTICE OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH, a serious difference as to the day for its observance soon arose between the Christians of Jewish and those of Gentile descent, which led to a long and bitter controversy. The point at issue was when the Paschal fast was to be reckoned as ending. With the Jewish Christians, whose leading thought was the death of Christ as the Paschal Lamb, the fast ended at the same time as that of the Jews, on the fourteenth day of the moon at evening, and the Easter festival immediately followed, without regard to the day of the week. The Gentile Christians, on the other hand, unfettered by Jewish traditions, identified the first day of the week with the Resurrection, and kept the preceding Friday as the commemoration of the crucifixion, irrespective of the day of the month. With the one the observance of the day of the month, with the other the observance of the day of the week, was the guiding principle. Generally speaking, the Western churches kept Easter on the first day of the week, while the Eastern churches followed the Jewish rule, and kept Easter on the fourteenth day. ST. POLYCARP, THE DISCIPLE OF ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST and bishop of Smyrna, visited Rome in 159 to confer with Anicetus, the bishop of that see, on the subject; and URGED THE TRADITION, WHICH HE HAD RECEIVED FROM THE APOSTLE, of observing the fourteenth day. Anicetus, however, declined to admit the Jewish custom in the churches under his jurisdiction, but readily communicated with Polycarp and those who followed it.”
Notice that Polycarp affirmed that he had received the tradition of Easter to commemorate the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the apostle John.
The Oxford English dictionary also lists many early English literary sources that employed the word Easter to refer to the Resurrection. Among them are the following: 890 A.D. Aelfred Baeda “le dar tide Eastrena ecelice healdan wille”; 1123 A.D. Old English Chronicles, 1200, 1250, 1300; 1389 in English Gild ‘be some day fourth nythe after Easterne”; 1175 A.D. Lamb Homilies 45 “uwile sonnedei is to locan alswa Ester dei”; 1200 Trin. Coll. Homily “Forte pene puresdai biforen Estrene dai”; 1398 A.D. Trevira Barth “Eester daye is tyme of gladnesse”; 1420, 1440, 1480 “wold not graunte unto Estre next comyng”; 1447 Bokenham “On Esterne day next folwyng; 1517 A.D. Torkington – Pilgrimage – “He sawe…Criste rysen upon Estern Day”; 1593 Hooker Eccl. Pol. “keeping the feast of Easter on the same day the Jews kept theirs”;
Words can acquire new meanings with changing circumstances and be applied in new ways. When you turned on your computer, you used your “mouse”. Some argue the word pascha does not mean Easter in Greek but any modern Greek dictionary will tell you the way to say Easter is Pascha.
Most of us know how to say Merry Christmas in Spanish. Feliz Navidad. But millions of Spanish speaking people also say Happy Easter with the words Feliz Pascuas, the very same Greek word. This word also means Easter in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Swiss, Norwegian, Russian (Paskha), Romanian and Swedish.
Why would this word become Easter for the English speaking people? The word pascha is translated all other times in the KJB as passover, referring to the annual Jewish feast of offering a lamb to God to commemorate their deliverance out of slavery in Egypt.
Yet after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, this word is used only three times, once here in Acts 12:4, once in 1 Corinthians 5:7, where we are told, “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” Tyndale’s Bible actually says, “For Christ our Easter lamb is offered up for us.” And once again in Hebrews 11:28 where the King James Bible says regarding Moses: “Through faith he kept the passover” (referring of course to the time of the exodus) and where Tyndale’s N.T. says: “Through faith he ordained the Easter lamb.”
The only time the word is used in the New Testament referring to a Post-Resurrection time line is in Acts 12:4 where the King James Bible correctly has translated this Greek word as Easter.”
It makes no sense at all to believe that Tyndale, Martin Luther, Cranmer, Coverdale, Matthews, the Great Bible, and the Bishop’s Bible were referring to a pagan deity of the spring called Eastre or Ishtar when they called Christ the easterlamb.
It is likewise grammatically absurd to think Easter refers to a pagan deity in Acts 12:4 where it says, “intending after Easter to bring him forth unto the people”. Try substituting another name there and see how it sounds; like “intending after Buddha to bring him forth”, or “intending after Krishna to bring him forth to the people. “
Believers who say that Easter was a pagan holiday use the argument that Passover occurred before the days of unleavened bread, and so the Passover had already taken place. However in Luke 22:1 we see that the entire feast of 7 days was collectively called the Passover. “Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover.” The term Passover may also refer to the entire week, including the 7 days of unleavened bread after the lamb was slain every year.
We also see the same thing in Matthew 26:17-19: “Now THE FIRST DAY OF THE FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat THE PASSOVER? …I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples….and they made ready the passover.”
This is also confirmed in Ezekiel 45:21 – “In the first month, in the fourteenth day of the month, ye shall have the passover, a feast of seven days; unleavened bread shall be eaten.”
The KJB is actually the most accurate translation, in that it uses the word “passover” BEFORE the death and resurrection of Christ and then “Easter” the only time the word occurs in the book of Acts AFTER His resurrection.
Some say the word Easter comes from the name of the goddess Ishtar or Eastre. The truth is found in any good dictionary that both Eastre and Easter come from the word East, but they are not related to each other in meaning. The sun rises in the east, to bring the light of a new day, and we are told concerning Christ in Malachi 4:2, “But unto you that fear my name shall the SUN of righteousness arise with healing in his wings.”
I also disagree with the idea that it was Herod who wanted to wait till after an alleged celebration of a pagan deity called Ishtar or Astarte. There is no historical evidence that Herod or anyone else in Jerusalem celebrated Ishtar at this time.
Regarding the idea that Herod supposedly wanted to please the Jews by waiting till after the celebration of a pagan deity, brother Herb Evans aptly commented: “Well, herein lies the fatal flaw … If Herod was worried about pleasing the Jews in regard to taking Peter, how could Herod please the Jews by either politicking for or worshipping Astarte, Ishtar, Easter, or any other heathen deity? Israel, although apostate, was not idolatrous at this point of her history… Did they not know what happened to those Old Testament Jewish idolaters? That is if we are going to play what Herod knew and when he knew it, we can also play what the Jews knew and when they knew it. “
It is not that Herod himself was celebrating an alleged “Ishtar”, or the Jewish Passover or what would come to be called the Christian Easter. Rather, it is the Holy Ghost speaking here in Acts 12:4 and telling us what this Passover celebration would come to signify for the believers in a risen Lord Jesus Christ. Christians today do not celebrate the Passover; we celebrate Easter which commemorates the great and central event of the glorious resurrection of the Lamb of God.
Our word EASTER is of Saxon origin and of precisely the same import with its German cognate OSTERN. The German word for Easter (Ostern) is derived from the old Teutonic form of auferstehen / auferstehung, that is – RESURRECTION.” This is quoted from “Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History,” translated in 1850 by C. F. Cruse, Hendrickson Publishers, p 437.
Here is additional proof that the English word Easter is of Saxon origin. We have copies of the Saxon gospels and they are online. You can see the Anglo-Saxon Gospels Manuscript 140, Corpus Christi College circa 1000, by Aelfric online here – http://www.lcoggt.org/AngloSaxon/anglosaxon_gospels.htm
This dates from about the year 1000 A.D. and in the gospel of Matthew 26:2 in English we read “Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover”. The Anglo Saxon reads: “Wite ge þt æfter twam dagum beoð EASTRO”. Again in Matthew 26:17 and 19 we read “Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover” and in verse 19 “and they made ready the passover.” In the Anglo Saxon version we read accordingly “ðenunga to EASTRON” and in v. 19 “hig ge-gearwodon him EASTER-þenunga.”
The passover was a type of the true lamb of God who delivers His people out of the bondage of sin. Yet in the Jewish passover, there is no type of the resurrection, only the death of the lamb. The main theme of the preaching in Acts is the glorious resurrection of the lamb of God, Jesus Christ.
The Holy Ghost is speaking here in Acts 12, and He changed the significance of the word pascha to mean Easter. After all, there was no Easter before this great event. Easter is associated with the Jewish passover as a yearly holy day. Does not the same thing occur in Scripture with what was previously called the “passover meal”? The Holy Ghost, speaking through Paul, now refers to the “passover meal” as “The Lord’s Supper” in 1 Corinthians 11:20. It is no longer celebrated only once a year but can be celebrated as many times a year as we wish. See 1 Corinthians 11:26. But only once a year do we celebrate the resurrection, and in English and many other languages, this event is called Easter.
Dr. Paul Maier, professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University, observes that “…if all the evidence is weighed carefully and fairly, it is indeed justifiable, according to the canons of historical research, to conclude that the sepulcher of Joseph of Arimathea, in which Jesus was buried, was actually empty on the morning of THE FIRST EASTER (Caps are mine). And no shred of evidence has yet been discovered in literary sources, epigraphy, or archaeology that would disprove this statement.”
Some would argue that the early Christians didn’t celebrate Easter at this time, so it can not properly be called by this name but should be passover. The early Christians began very soon to commemorate the yearly event called Easter.
Testimonies about the early Christians celebrating Easter
The history of Christian Easter is told about in the book, A History of The Christian Church. The first definite record of the celebration of Christian Easter is in connection with the visit of Polycarp (the bishop of Smyrna) to Anicetus (the bishop of Rome) in 154 or 155 in order to come to an agreement about the time of the observance of Easter. (Some say it was earlier, and there is dispute about the exact date of Polycarp’s death) Polycarp represented the more ancient custom of observing Easter with a vigil, ending with the Lord’s Supper, through the night of the fourteenth of the month Nisan (month of the Jewish calendar), like the Jewish Passover, regardless of what day of the week this day might fall.
Anicetus represented the Roman custom that was also followed by some parts of the East to have the Easter feast always on Sunday. They did not come to an agreement, but continued on each with their own practice. Many articles found on the internet say that Polycarp claimed the apostle John celebrated the yearly event of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. In any event, it seems the early church began very soon to celebrate a special day once of year to commemorate the resurrection of our Lord, and this day became known as Easter, which in the Greek language and many other foreign languages comes directly from this word Paska.
The following is an excerpt from Dr. Thomas Holland’s Crowned With Glory 2000
Acts 12:4 – “after Easter”
“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.”
The Greek word pascha is translated as Passover in the KJV with this one exception where it is translated as Easter. Therefore, some point to this passage as a translation error on the KJV’s part. However, earlier English translations such as Tyndale’s NT, the Great Bible, and the Bishop’s Bible also translated pascha as Easter in this verse, showing that the understanding here dealt with something other than the Jewish Passover. Also, the translation of pascha as Passover in Acts 12:4 was known to the king’s translators since this is the reading of the Geneva Bible.
THE USE OF THE WORD PASCHA IN EARLY CHRISTIAN WRITINGS DEALT WITH THE CELEBRATION OF EASTER, AND NOT JUST THE JEWISH PASSOVER.  Dr. G. W. H. Lampe has correctly stated that PASCHA CAME TO MEAN EASTER IN THE EARLY CHURCH. The ancient Christians did not keep the Jewish Passover. Instead they kept as holy a day to celebrate the resurrection of Christ near the time of both Passover and the pagan festival celebrating the goddess Ostara. Dr. Lampe lists several rules and observances by Christians in celebration of their pascha or Easter. Lampe also points to various Greek words such as paschazo and paschalua that came to mean celebrate Easter and Eastertide.  Likewise, Dr. Gerhard Kittel notes that PASCHA CAME TO BE CALLED EASTER IN THE CELEBRATION OF THE RESURRECTION within the primitive Church. 
It seems that pascha can mean more than the Jewish holy day of Passover. In fact, Greeks today who wish to send the greeting Happy Easter say, kalee pascha. Literally it means good Passover. However it has come to mean good or happy Easter.
 See Dr. Walter Bauer’s, A Greek-English Lexicon Of The New Testament And Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1957) Under the Greek word pascha we find #4. “in later Christian usage the Easter festival” (page 639)
 G. W. H. Lampe, A Patristic Greek Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961), 1048-1049.
 Gerhard Kittle, Theological Dictionary Of The New Testament, Vol. II. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), 901-904.”In Christian usage Easter is called pascha” (page 897). “The oldest accounts of a Christian Paschal feast take us back to the apostolic period. The N.T. tells us nothing about the details, but the gaps may be filled in from accounts of the Quartodecimans, since their Easter, as we now know, was a direct continuation of that of the primitive Church.” (page 901). “The paschal feast thus took place in the primitive Church at the same time as the Jewish Passover, that is, on the night of the 15th Nisan…Hence the original Christian Easter, as we have come to know and deduce it from the Quartodeciman sources, shared with the Jewish Passover not only the time and details of the rite but also the expectation of the Messiah…The first assured reference to a Sunday Easter is in 155 A.D., but it was probably much older than this.” (pages 902-903)
Easter -Copyright 1999 by Gretchen Passantino
Easter is an English corruption from the proto-Germanic root word meaning “to rise.” (We see this in the contemporary German cognate “ost-” and the English cognate “east,” the direction from which the sun rises in the morning.) It refers not only to Christ rising from the dead, but also to his ascension to heaven and to our future rising with him at his Second Coming for final judgment. IT IS NOT TRUE THAT IT DERIVES FROM THE PAGAN Germanic goddess OESTAR OR from the Babylonian goddess ISHTAR- both fertility symbols signifying the coming of spring images of fertility, new life, and renewal.
The first Easter occurred on the first day of the week after the Passover Sabbath. The first day of the week became the Christian’s “sabbath rest” (Heb. 4:1-11), the time of weekly Christian celebration of the resurrection. Annually, the Lord’s Day immediately subsequent to the Jewish Passover was a day of special resurrection celebration.
Early Christians consulted local rabbis to determine the date of Passover each year, which would correspond to Holy Week. Passover was determined by the lunar configurations of the latitude in which the Jewish community resided. There was no Jewish authority at Jerusalem to determine a uniform date after the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70. In communities with no Jewish presence, Christians found it even more difficult to determine the date. Once the churches became unified in the fourth century, the date was more consistent until the West’s adoption of the revised Gregorian calendar in the sixteenth century.
We read in Eusebius (Hist. Eccl., V, xxiii): “A question of no small importance arose at that time [i.e. about A.D. 190]. The dioceses of all Asia, as from an older tradition, held that the fourteenth day of the moon, on which day the Jews were commanded to sacrifice the lamb, should always be observed as the feast of the life-giving pasch [epi tes tou soteriou Pascha heortes], contending that the fast ought to end on that day, whatever day of the week it might happen to be. However it was not the custom of the churches in the rest of the world to end it at this point, as they observed the practice, which from Apostolic tradition has prevailed to the present time, of terminating the fast on no other day than on that of the Resurrection of our Saviour…. These words of the Father of Church History, followed by some extracts which he makes from the controversial letters of the time, tell us almost all that we know concerning the paschal controversy in its first stage. A letter of St. Irenaeus is among the extracts just referred to, and this shows that the diversity of practice regarding Easter had existed at least from the time of 120 A.D.. Further, Irenaeus states that Polycarp, who like the other Asiatics, kept Easter on the fourteenth day of the moon, whatever day of the week that might be, following therein the tradition which he claimed to have derived from St. John the Apostle, came to Rome circa 150 A.D. about this very question.”
http://chi.gospelcom.net/GLIMPSEF/Glimpses/glmps100.shtml The earliest Christians celebrated the resurrection on the fourteenth of Nisan (our March-April), the date of the Jewish Passover. Jewish days were reckoned from evening to evening, so Jesus had celebrated His Last Supper the evening of the Passover and was crucified the day of the Passover. Early Christians celebrating the Passover worshiped Jesus as the Paschal Lamb and Redeemer.
John Owen wrote concerning the celebration of Easter – “There was also a signal vindication of the truth pleaded for, in an instance of fact among the primitive churches. There was an opinion which prevailed very early among them about the necessary observation of Easter, in the room of the Jewish Passover, for the solemn commemoration of the death and resurrection of our Saviour.
And it was taken for granted by most of them, that the observance hereof was countenanced, if not rendered necessary to them, by the example of the apostles; for they generally believed that by them it was observed, and that it was their duty to accomodate themselves to their practices… By the later second century, it was accepted that the celebration of Easter was a practice of the disciples and an undisputed tradition that Easter was to be observed by virtue of Apostolical tradition was generally granted by all.”
Christians had obviously been celebrating Easter before 150 A.D. or so, since Christian leaders met to discuss its proper date and not the fact of its observance. God is now calling the passover Easter because of its new signifiance. He calleth those things which be not, as though they were.
Has He not done this before in His word? Genesis 14:14 tells us that Abraham pursued those who had taken Lot captive unto Dan. There was not even a tribe of Israel called Dan let alone a city named after them at this time. But God knew there would be.
In Genesis 21:14, 21, God calls the name of a place Beersheba before it is so named. In Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1, God speaks of Cyrus, my shepherd, his anointed “whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him”, as though he already existed, yet Cyrus would not be born till many years later.
Again in Romans 4:17, “As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations, before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.” At the time Abraham had only one son, Ishmael. He was hardly a father of many nations, yet God says he had already made him a father of many nations.
There are two other examples in the scriptures of a religious holiday being established by God’s people to commemorate a great deliverance or event. In Esther 9:26-27 we see the feast of Purim established. “Wherefore they called these days Purim after the name of Pur. The Jews ordained, and took upon them, and upon their seed, and upon all such as joined themselves unto them, so as it should not fail, that they would keep these two days according to their writing, and according to their appointed time every year.”
The other one is found in John 10:22 were we read, “And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter.” This feast of the dedication was instituted in 164 BC when after Antiochas Ephiphanes defiled the temple and Judas Maccaebeus rededicated it. This holiday is now called Hanukkah.
Words can adapt to new meanings and events can obtain new significance. What was once called by one name can now be called by another. Much has changed since the victory over death and the putting away of sin; the types have been fulfilled and their significance brought to light in the face of Jesus Christ.
I am well aware of how this original Christian celebration of Easter has been corrupted over the years with the bunnies, candies, and eggs. But these corruptions came about much later in the history of the church.
What things of Christ and of God have not been corrupted to some degree by the world and even by the church itself? Nevertheless, there remains the central kernel of divine truth in I Cor. 15:20, that “Christ is risen from the dead and become the firstfruits of them that slept”. The word Easter in Acts 12:4 is not an error, but rather a fuller revelation of the significance of the passover lamb, His sacrifice for our sins, and His resurrection from the dead.
NOTES FROM THE INTERNET
- Hi guys. Thanks for all the discussion and the thoughts some have had. The meaning of the English word is perhaps debatable, but I clearly land on the side that sees Easter as coming from the word meaning simply “east” or from where the sun rises. But the main thing to realize (as I have pointed out) there is a very specific Greek word that is being translated here by the KJB translators and others. And that specific Greek word paska can in NO possible way be even remotely tied into some alleged pagan goddess names Eostre or Ashoreth. No possible way.
- Paska has two possible meanings and only two. One is Passover, but since the Resurrection of our Lord, it now has another meaning, which derives from the first, Christ is our Passover – 1 Cor. 5:7 and because He fulfilled the type, and He rose from the dead (which the O.T. sacrificed lambs never did) the word Paska came to mean Easter, the yearly celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord, the Passover lamb of God.
- And all this started by apostolic tradition and was clearly being practiced by Polycarp and the early church. Polycarp was a disciple of the apostle John and he said he got the teaching about Easter from John.
- The Greek word paska has directly been carried over into numerous world languages as a transliteration (but not in English) and it clearly means Easter, even in modern Greek.
- The King James Bible is always right. We may not understand all that it teaches (I certainly do not) but it and several other English translations – all of the early ones – clearly say Easter in Acts 12:4, and if we take into consideration the underlying Greek word it is translated from, we have to reject the idea that it is in any way associated with some very questionable pagan goddess allegedly named Eostre or even Ashtoreth.
- I think that was a very misguided explanation somebody came up with in an effort to explain the accuracy of the King James Bible – which I fully believe is the complete and inerrant words of the living God.
- The Easter eggs and bunnies came in much later to corrupt the core truth of the resurrection of Christ and the fulfillment of the Passover type in Christ our Passover.
- As for the ham, the reason I have heard why people began to eat ham around this time was to show that they were not Jews. Observant Jews do not eat ham.
- God bless.
Here is an EXCELLENT article on Easter and why the King James Bible is correct. Please read it. You will learn a lot. It is at KJV Today and here is the site –
Oakwood Baptist Church article on why Easter in Acts 12:4 is absolutely correct –
Notes from the Internet –
After I wrote this article on Easter a fellow King James Bible believer made me aware that apparently Mrs. Ripplinger also shares this view about Easter.
She writes: RIPLINGER ON “EASTER”
APPENDIX: The Bible’s Built-In Definition of Easter
Here has been a debate for hundreds of years about the word ‘Easter.’ God and his Bible have a genuine word and principle and the devil counterfeits it. The biblical etymological focus for ‘east-er or ea-ster’ has been on both ‘east’ and ‘star’.
The Genuine, Then The Counterfeit:
The reader of the Bible and the natural man, observing his world, are encouraged by the Bible to understand that the word ‘east’ is a reference to the place where the sun rises. Jesus Christ is referred to as the “Sun of righteousness.…” Mal. 4:2 says, “But unto you that fear my same shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings:…” The parallel between the Son of God and the sun (Sun) is obvious. The O.T. made it clear that the Sun of righteous would rise from the dead, just as the sun rises in the east in the morning.
Numbers 2:3 refers to the “east…rising of the sun.”
Numbers 24:17 calls Jesus the “Star”: “I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel…”
Also, Matthew 2:2 says, “… for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.”
The counterfeiter came along quickly, as in Deut 1:4 we see “A-star-oth” appears. She is the fertility goddess (Astarte, Ishtar, etc.), from which the word ‘Easter’ is sometimes traced.
Her reproductive proclivity is portrayed by the bunny rabbits and eggs. Of course, the pagan counterfeit continues to this day with the focus on bunnies and eggs. In Ezek. 8:16 we see an
example of the pagan practice, with their “…faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east.” Just as there is “another Jesus,” (2 Cor. 11:4) there is ‘another’ Easter.
Part II – But, according to the Bible, the word ‘east’ and ‘star’ (“east-er” or “ea-ster”) are connected to the resurrection of the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ. Therefore, Easter, as seen in the KJB, word which is connected with the coming and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. An examination of all the usages of the word ‘east’ in the Bible will confirm this. In the surrounding contexts there are reference to the sun (Son) rising and numerous prophetic statements about Jesus rising from the dead. The sunset pictures the red blood of Christ, as it covers the earth and as he goes down to hell. The dark night pictures the burial of Christ. The sunrise, of course, pictures his glorious resurrection.
(Remember that in the Bible, “And the evening and the morning were the first day” (Gen. 1:5). The evening, that is, the sunset or death of Christ, comes first; the resurrection, that is, the ‘day’ and the ‘Son’ rise, occurs second.
Look up the words “sun,” “shine,” “rise,” “east,” “eastern,” and “risen” for many more pictures of the resurrection. Observe the following sample verses (KJB), which lead the reader to understand the word ‘Easter’ as related to and pointing to something connected to the east, as “precursors” to the resurrection of Christ. The reader of the Bible will not necessarily be led through reading and studying the Bible to the conclusion that the word ‘Easter’ is merely a pagan word.
Gen. 2:8, 9 “And the LORD God…eastward…out of the ground…the LORD God.”
Gen. 2:14 “east…fourth” (like unto the Son of God)
Rev. 20:8 “four quarters of the earth,” Deut 22:12 “four quarters of thy vesture,” 1 Chron. 9:24 “four quarters, east, west, north, and south,” etc.
Numbers 2:3 “east…rising of the sun
Josh. 12:1; Isa. 59:19,20 “the rising of the sun…the Redeemer”
Isa. 60:1-3 “Arise, shine; for thy light…the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee…the Lord shall arise upon thee…thy light…to the brightness of thy rising…”
Ezek. 44 et al. “looketh toward the east…This gate shall be shut…it is the Lord, the God of Israel hath entered by it.”
Ezek 43:4″The glory of the Lord came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east.”
Ezek. 43:20 “four corners” (NSEW)
Ezek. 44:1 “the east”
Ezek. 44:2 “God…hath entered”
Mat. 17:1, 2 “Jesus…as the sun”
Luke 4:40 “Now when the sun was setting…he laid his hands…healed them”
Mark 16:2, 6 “rising of the sun…he is risen”
Ezek. 46:1-2 “looketh toward the east…the sabbath…the prince shall enter… offering…east…go forth…shut the gate (sun set)…four corners of the court (v. 21)(ch. 48:20 “foursquare”)
Ps. 50:1, 2 “rising of the sun…God hath shined…”
Isa. 41:2 “raiseth up the righteous man from the east” (see also verse 41:25)
2 Peter 1:19 “day dawn and the day star arise in your hearts”
Ps. 84:11 “For the LORD God is a sun…”
Ps. 19:2-4 “In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun” “which as a bridegroom going out…His circuit…”
Not only does the Bible lead its readers to understand ‘Easter’ as coming from the word ‘east,’ but modern usages does likewise. Have you ever heard of a noreaster? It is a storm that comes from the northeast. Cape Hatteras, NC. Often experience noreasters.
If someone says the Greek word ‘pascha’ is translated elsewhere as passover, therefore it must be passover everywhere, they REALLY are proving that they do not know Greek at all. Most of the Greek words in the Greek New Testament are translated numerous ways in all Bible translations. If the KJB critics had really spent any time studying Wigram’s or Smith’s Greek Concordances, they would see that many Greek New Testament words are translated using numerous English equivalencies.
Pointing out the translation of pascha as both Easter and Passover proves they are not true students of either the Greek or the English Bible. All modern Greek-English dictionaries today define pascha as both Easter and Passover.” (End of notes by sister Gail Ripplinger)
Excellent Youtube teaching video called Let’s Not Passover Easter
Here is a very well done teaching video explaining the meaning and history of the word Easter which shows why the King James Bible is correct. Lots of very good information
See this article from Answers in Genesis – Is the Name “Easter” of Pagan Origin?
More Notes from the internet –
At one of the Facebook clubs called “KJV ONLY” EXPOSING THE WHOLE VIEW OF THE ISSUE, a Bible critic named Deejay writes:
“So you’re saying that Luke had Easter in mind even though the celebration wouldn’t happen until hundreds off years after?”
To whom I answered: “No, GOD had Easter in mind because that is what the yearly celebration of the Resurrection would be called and history has shown this to be true. What? God doesn’t know what is going to happen in the future?”
Deejay then came back with: “Then why did God not use a different word other than the one that is used every other time as passover? seems like that might be just a bit confusing. ”
To whom I responded again: “That’s actually a very good question, Deejay. I believe God used the same Greek word for both the pre-resurrection Passover and to show the fulfillment of the type in the Resurrection, He chose to use the same word so we can see the direct relationship that exists between the type and the fulfillment of the type. The ONLY time the King James Bible translates this word as Easter is the only time the word is used in the New Testament when it refers to a post-Resurrection event. The KJB got it right because God gave us this remarkable Book. There is no denying that the word paska MEANS both Passover AND Easter in many of the world’s languages today.
Just another “coincidence” found in the King James Bible, huh?
Brother Nick Sayers has written a very well documented article about the relationship between Passover and Easter, and shows how the King James Bible is the more accurate reading by rendering this word as Easter in Acts 12:4. http://www.easterau.com/
For another article by Scott Jones which shows that Easter is the correct translation here, go to
Just recently (March 2010) another KJB believer sent to our Which Version club this article posted at King James Version dealing with Easter. It also has a lot o good historic information on the origin of the word Easter and how it is the yearly celebration of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. You can see it here:
Here is part of this study –
“Easter” or “Passover” in Acts 12:4?
“Pascha” means Easter today… Now that it has been demonstrated that “Easter” is a biblical word referring to the day to celebrate Christ’s resurrection, it will be shown why the KJV is correct in translating ” (Pascha)” as “Easter” at Acts 12:4. For starters, here are some modern Greek-English dictionaries showing that at least in modern Greek the primary meaning of “Pascha” is “Easter”, not “Passover”: … “Pascha” is a polyseme, a word with multiple meanings. In certain contexts it refers to the Jewish Passover (celebration of the Exodus). In other contexts it refers to the Christian Easter. When used by Jews in a context prior to Christ’s resurrection, the word always refers to the Jewish Passover. However, when used by Greek Christians in a context after Christ’s resurrection (as Luke, the narrator of Acts, did in Acts 12:4), the word refers to Easter. … Contrary to what many believe, it is neither the Jews nor Herod who is using the word ” pasca ” at Acts 12:4. It is actually Luke, the Christian narrator of Acts, who is using the word “pasca ” to describe the timeline of events for his Christian readers, many of whom were Gentile Christians. For Luke and his Christian readers, ” pasca ” at Acts 12:4 was no longer the Passover, but Easter. When Luke speaks in Acts 12:4 as narrator, he is using words according to the mutual Christian perspective of himself and his readers. This is evident because he uses the word “church” ( ekklhsia ) at Acts 12:1 to refer to Christians.”
And now we have a brand new full length (55 minutes) video explaining in detail the origin of the word Easter and how it was consistently used to refer to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. You can see it here: http://www.bible.net.au/flowplayer/example/index.html
“Why We Should Not Passover Easter”
The Definitive Articles by Bro. Nick Sayers: http://www.easterau.com/
(one hour video) http://www.bible.net.au/flowplayer/example/index.html
Was Easter Borrowed from a Pagan Holiday?
The historical evidence contradicts this popular notion.
Shorter article by Anthony McRoy:
Does Easter have a pagan derivation?
Dr. Jonathan Sarfati: http://creation.com/easter-and-good-friday-questions-and-answers
See also – Is the Name “Easter” of Pagan Origin? Misconception: The church borrowed the name “Easter” from pagans.
by Roger Patterson, AiG–U.S. – April 19, 2011
And another King James Bible believing brother names Dr. Larry Bednar has an article at his King James Version Textual Technology site where he defends Easter as being correct and referring to Resurrection Day in the early church.
Just as Passover can be a single day or the entire week, so too with Easter. We have Easter Sunday, but we also have Easter Week.
Easter Week is the week beginning with the Christian feast of Easter, and ending a week later on Easter Saturday.”
Lancelot Andrewes Works, Sermons, Volume Two (In case you don’t know, Lancelot Andrewes was one of the King James Bible translators.)
Sermons of the Resurrection Preached Upon Easter-Day, 1618.
Preached before King James, at Whitehall, on Sunday the Fifth of April, A. D. MDCXVIII – 404- 428
Transcribed by Dr. Marianne Dorman – AD 2002
Text 1 Corinthians xi:16
… Then, will we descend to shew the keeping of Easter, to be such, ever in use with ‘the Churches of God’ from the time of the Apostles themselves. … But as God would have it, the question never was of the feast itself, but of the time of it only. All kept Easter, though not at the same time. … The first that it took thus in the head, Tertullian in the end of De Præscriptione saith, was one Blastus about the days of Commodus. He began a schism. And Irenaeus presently wrote De Schismate contra Blastum.
(next we move to more references that are before 300 AD.)
2. And even then at Alexandria, Dionysius the bishop there held this custom…..
3. Cyprian held this custom; not by his homily-I wave it as doubtful, but in four of his Epistles I find it….
4. Origen had this custom. In his eighth against Celsus frankly he confesseth, that other feasts, Easter by name, the Christians held them..
5. Tertullian had this custom. Many places in him. ….
6. Irenaeus had this custom. His Epistle to Victor sheweth it… A book also we find he wrote de Paschate, in the 115th Quæst. in Justin Martyr.
7. And it is strange, even during the persecution, how many books we find written to deduce the custom by. 1. Beside that of Irenæus, 2. One by Anatolius the great learned Bishop of Laodicea; 3. By Theophilus Bishop of Cæsarea, and 4. by Bacchyllus Bishop of Corinth, either of them one. 5. Another by Hippolytus, that made up the first cycle. Yet, 6. another by Clemens Alexandrinus. And last, which indeed was first in time of all, two books, 7. by the holy Martyr and Prophet Melito, Bishop of Sardis, in the next age to the Apostles themselves, set forth by him as he saith, at the time of the feast, and in the very holy-days of it…..
Enough, I trow, to shew such a custom there was in all the Churches these parties lived in, which were all the Churches God then had. … Now to nos, that is, to the Apostles themselves. First, that it was a custom Apostolic and so taken; … the ‘Passion, the Resurrection, the Ascension of Christ, and the coming of the Holy Spirit from Heaven,’ anniversaria solennitate celebrantur, are yearly in solemn manner celebrated…. Constantine … Mark the words. 1. ‘They had kept Easter from the first day of Christ’s Passion, till that present time.’ 2. And after that, ‘We have received it of our Saviour.’ 3. And yet again, ‘which our Saviour delivered to us.’ And concludes, that accordingly, ‘when he came among them, he and they would keep their Easter together.’
… Thus of himself Irenaeus writeth that he was brought up in Asia under Polycarp, and that he, young though he were, observed and remembered well all his course of life. And namely, how coming to Rome in Anicetus’ time, he kept his Easter there.
Polycarp then kept Easter. Now Polycarp had lived and conversed with the Apostles, was made a bishop by them. Bishop of Smyrna-Irenaeus and Tertullian say it directly, and he is supposed to be the Angel of the Church of Smyrna; and Polycarp, as saith Irenaeus, kept Easter with St. John, and with the rest of the Apostles, totidem verbis.
Polycrates in his Epistle there, in Eusebius, expressly saith that St. Philip the Apostle kept it. If St. Philip and St. John, by name, if the rest of the Apostles had it, then nos habemus is true; then it is Apostolic.
But yet we have a more sure ground than all these. The Lord’s Day has testimony in Scripture-I insist upon that; that Easter day must needs be as ancient as it. For how came it to be ‘the Lord’s Day,’ but that, as it is in the Psalm, ‘the Lord made it?’ And why made He it? but because on it, ‘the Stone cast aside,’ that is Christ, ‘was made the Head-stone of the corner?’-that is, because then the Lord rose, because of His resurrection fell upon it?
… Origen in his seventh upon Exodus, he saith, our Easter day far passeth the Jewish Easter. They had no manna on theirs-the Passover was eaten in Egypt, manna came not till they were in the wilderness-but we, saith he, we never keep our Passover, but we are sure of manna upon it, the true Manna, ‘the Bread of life that came down from heaven.’
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.
Return to Articles – http://brandplucked.webs.com/articles.htm
More Notes from the Internet –
Here is an excellent study on the word Easter by pastor Brian Evans. He has several really good articles about the King James Bible. You can see them here –
Acts 12:4, Is The Word Easter A Mistake?
Pastor Brian Evans
Oakwood Baptist Church
The appearance of the word “Easter” in Acts 12:4 has long been considered a translation error by critics of the KJV. Commentators who disagree with the use of Easter do so because they believe that the underlying Greek word “pascha” should be translated as “passover” as it is in every other place in the New Testament. In this article you will read solid evidence that the KJV translators were correct in using Easter instead of Passover in Acts 12:4. My argument will be threefold in nature: First, I will present a brief history of how other English versions translated “pascha”. Secondly, I will reveal the link between the Greek word pascha and Easter, and lastly I will present the Biblical context of Acts 12:4. Before we go any further we should carefully read the verse in question.
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.”
1. A Brief History of how pascha was translated in English versions of the Bible.
The KJV was not the first version of the Bible to translate the Greek word “pascha” as Easter. Below I have listed how Acts 12:4 appears in most of the early English translations and a few more recent versions. I do not include the Wycliffe Bible as it was translated from the Latin Vulgate. I have highlighted the word Easter or its equivalent in bold print.
The 1525 Tyndale New Testament
Acts 12:4 And when he had caught him he put him in preson and delyvered him to .iiii. quaternios of soudiers to be kepte entendynge after ester to brynge him forth to the people.
The 1535 Miles Coverdale Bible
At the same tyme layed kynge Herode handes vpon certayne of the congregacion, to vexe them. 2 As for Iames the brother of Ihon, him he slewe with the swerde. 3 And whan he sawe that it pleased the Iewes, he proceaded farther to take Peter also. But it was Easter. 4 Now whan he had taken him, he put him in preson, and delyuered him vnto foure quaternions of soudyers, to kepe him: and thought after Easter to bringe him forth to the people.
The 1539 Great Bible (Reading supplied by the American Bible Society http://www.americanbible.org)
And when he had caught him, he put him in preson also and delyuered him to .iii. quaternions of soudiers to be kepte, entendynge after Ester to brynge hym forth to the people.
The 1557 Geneva New Testament (Reading supplied by the American Bible Society http://www.americanbible.org)
And when he had caught him, he put him in prison, and deliuered him to foure quaternions of souldiers to be kept: entending after Easter to bringe him forth to the people.”
1560 Geneva Bible
Acts 12:4 And when he had caught him, he put him in prison, and deliuered him to foure quaternions of souldiers to be kept, intending after the Passeouer to bring him foorth to the people.
1568 The Bishops Bible
Acts 12:4 And when he had caught hym, he put hym in pryson also, delyuered hym to foure quaternions of souldiers to be kept, intending after Easter to bring hym foorth to the people.
1611 The King James Version
Acts 12:4 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.
1729 Daniel Mace New Testament
About that time, king Herod Agrippa began to persecute some of the church. 2 he caus’d James the brother of John to be beheaded. 3 and perceiving that the Jews were pleas’d with this, he proceeded to secure Peter during the feast of unleavened bread: 4 having apprehended Peter, he put him into prison, appointing a detachment of sixteen soldiers to guard him, intending to have him brought to publick execution, after Easter.
As you can see the KJV is not alone in it’s translation of the Greek word pascha as Easter in Acts 12:4. The fact is that all English Bibles translated directly from Greek prior to 1560 contained the word Easter in Acts 12:4 (various spellings notwithstanding). Early English versions used the word Easter when referring to the Jewish Passover. This is because the word Passover did not exist until it appeared in Tyndale’s Old Testament. Tyndale used the word “ester” in the NT and “passouer” in the Old. After the word Passover was introduced by Tyndale, English versions began to use the word Passover more and more in place of the word Easter. The trend to replace Easter with Passover culminated with the 1560 Geneva Bible which removes the word Easter entirely and replaces it with Passover every time “pascha” appears in Greek.
However, a few English versions retained Easter in Acts 12:4 while using the word Passover elsewhere. For example, the 1568 Bishops Bible retains Easter in Acts 12:4 and John 11:55 while using Passover elsewhere. The 1611 KJV retains Easter in Acts 12:4, but uses Passover in every other place the Greek word pascha appears. Also, the 1729 Mace New Testament retains Easter only in Acts 12:4 as do two recent translations, the KJV 21st Century Version and the 3rd Millennium Bible. Opponents of the KJVO movement present the use of Easter in the KJV as if it stands alone in this regard. It is a fact that every early English version translated from Greek used Easter in Acts 12:4 until the 1560 Geneva Bible was published.
The question is why do the Bishops Bible, the Mace New Testament, and the 1611 KJV all retain Easter in Acts 12:4? Those who brought us these three versions were aware of how the Geneva Bible used passover instead of Easter in Acts 12:4 and yet they all chose to retain the word Easter instead of passover. The unity of these three versions in choosing Easter suggests that the translators believed that the “pascha” mentioned in Acts 12:4 referred to the resurrection celebration, not the Jewish passover. If they were correct there must be a scriptural link between the word pascha and the word Easter. In fact we find such a link in the story of the last supper where Jesus partakes of His final Passover meal with the disciples. The words Jesus speaks at the Passover meal plainly establish the needed link between pascha and Easter.
2. The Link Between Pascha and Easter
Before revealing the link between “pascha” and Easter it is helpful to make the following point. Words sometime gain additional meanings through time. Some words have a variety of meanings which have been added after certain events have taken place. The word “charge” is a good example of how a word which originally may have had only one meaning has gained additional meanings through time. One can charge a battery, open a charge account, get a charge out of a funny story, or sound a charge towards the enemy. Likewise certain words found in the Bible have gained additional meanings through time. For example, the Greek word “ekklesia” is the Greek word which originally meant any gathering of people. However, after Jesus started the NT church “ekklesia” began to also be used to describe a called out assembly of born again believers. Thus, when translating “ekklesia” the context must be properly discerned in order to know whether it refers to a secular assembly or to an assembly of believers. For this reason translators usually choose different words in the new language to reflect the context of the original word. For example, in the NT the word “ekklesia” is translated as both assembly and as church depending on whether the context describes a secular gathering or a gathering of believers. With this point in mind, Easter can be the correct translation in Acts 12 only if “pascha” has gained an additional meaning which links it to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The additional meaning needed to link “pascha” with Easter is revealed in Luke 22:19-20, let’s read.
Luke 22:19-20 “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.(Emphasis mine) Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.”
The event we call the “Last Supper” might more properly be called the “Last Passover.” The “Last Supper” was actually the Passover meal which Jesus enjoyed with His disciples. During the course of the meal Jesus spoke the words recorded in Luke 22:19-20. Jesus took the unleavened bread and explained to the disciples that the unleavened bread symbolized His body, and then He took the fruit of the vine and said it symbolized His blood which would be shed for the remission of sins. By these words Jesus plainly makes it clear that the sacrifice He was about to make He would fulfill the Old Testament symbols of the Passover. Furthermore, notice the last six words of His instruction; “this do in remembrance of me.” In other words Jesus told the disciples that the Passover meal which had previously symbolized the death angel passing over the homes of the Hebrews in Egypt was now to be observed as a symbol of His body and blood. In other words He was telling them, “What you have observed as a Jew in remembrance of what happened in Egypt, you will henceforth observe as a Christian in remembrance of my body and blood. From that day forward “pascha” came to mean one thing to the Jew and another to the Christian. The Jewish Pascha was only observed in remembrance of what happened in Egypt but the Christian Pascha was to be observed by Christians in remembrance of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus “pascha” now had two legitimate meanings; to the Jews it was a memorial of the Passover, and to Christians it was a memorial the body, blood, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. From that day until this Christians have used the word “pascha” to refer to the events associated with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ or in other words Easter.
Furthermore, Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines Easter as “A festival of the Christian church observed in commemoration of our Savior’s resurrection. It answers to the pascha or Passover of the Hebrews, and most nations still give it this name, pascha, pask, paque.” A brief language study will add even more strength to the argument that “pascha” has been used by Christians throughout the centuries to refer to Easter. For example, Greek Christians today still use the Greek word “pascha” when speaking of the Easter celebration. The statements below from a Greek Orthodox website at Easter reveal the obvious link between the Greek word “pascha” and the Easter celebration.
2008 Paschal Message from His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios
“Christos Anesti! Christ Is Risen! With these great and beautiful words, I greet you with love on this great day of Holy Pascha. These words announce the triumphant Resurrection of Jesus Christ and they fill all of our hearts with joy…”
In addition, in many other languages around the world a form of pascha is used to refer to the Easter celebration. Below is a list of all the languages I could find which use some form of pascha to say Easter.
1. Latin: Pascha
2. French: Pâques
3. Italian: Pasqua
4. Dutch: Pasen
5. Portuguese: Páscoa
6. Spanish: Pascua
7. Danish: Påske
8. Norwegian: påske
9. Romanian: Paşti
The evidence establishing the link between “pascha” and Easter is overwhelming. Jesus established the Christian Pascha during the Last Supper, and the use of “pascha” in association with Easter spread in one form or another to many languages around the world. It should be clear to any reasonable person that if the Greeks, French, Italians, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, Danish, Norwegians, and Romanians use a form of “pascha” in association with Easter, a strong link between “pascha” and Easter has existed since the early days of the New Testament.
3. The Biblical Context of Acts 12:4
We have established the link between “pascha” and Easter, but we must now establish that the “pascha” found in Acts 12:4 refers to the Christian Pascha and not the Jewish Passover. In addition to the link between “pascha” and Easter, we must also demonstrate that the context of Acts 12 concerns the Christian “pascha”. Demonstrating that the context in Acts 12 concerns the Christian “pascha” will settle once and for all that Easter is the correct translation in this passage.
When one considers the process used by the translators of the KJV which required multiple layers of checks and re-checks of their work, it is clear that the translation of Easter in Acts 12:4 was a thoughtful choice agreed upon by the whole body of translators. It is important to remember that no passage in the KJV is the work a single translator but is the product of the whole body of 47 scholars who each had influence on the entire work. Therefore the Easter translation cannot be a mistake made by one of the translators or something which was overlooked by one man. The translation of Easter in Acts 12:4 is the result of the studied opinion of the whole body of 47 translators. It is my contention that the translators of the KJV rightly discerned the context of Acts 12 and chose the word Easter to reflect that context. I will submit two items for your consideration which will help us properly discern the context of Acts 12.
First, the appearance of “pascha” in Acts 12 is unique; it is the only post resurrection appearance of the word where it refers to a current event. Pascha appears three times after Calvary, once in Acts 12 where it is speaking of the “pascha” currently underway, once in I Cor. 5:7 where it speaks of Christ being our Passover, and once in Hebrews 11 where it speaks of Moses keeping the passover by faith. Acts 12 is a unique appearance of pascha as it is the only post resurrection appearance of the word which refers to a pascha currently underway. The “pascha” referred to in Acts 12:4 was something happening right then, not something that had happened in the past. I contend that the uniqueness of how “pascha” is used in Acts 12 suggests the possibility of a unique context. In the next paragraph I will show that the context of Acts 12 is totally unique in that it the word “pascha” refers to the Christian Pascha, not the Jewish Passover.
Herod had executed James and because it pleased the Jews, he arrested Peter also intending to execute him. He arrested Peter sometime after the day of Passover during the days of unleavened bread. It is important to remember that both the Jewish and Christian Pascha celebrations were going on in Jerusalem at the same time. Herod would have had no reason to wait until the Passover ended to bring Peter forth as some suggest. Jesus was brought forth to the people during the Passover and the Jews eagerly demanded Him to be crucified. Furthermore, there is no link between the word “pascha” and any pagan God form any era. Herod may or may not have worshipped Ishtar but there is no legitimate justification for translating “pascha” as the name of any pagan God, the link simply does not exist.
Herod planned to bring Peter forth to the people after Easter (The Christian Pascha). Herod decided to wait until after the Christian Pascha (Easter) because of the tradition of releasing one Jewish prisoner during the Passover week. According to Mark 15:6 the tradition was that the Roman governor always released one Jewish prisoner during the Passover week. Furthermore, the prisoner to be released would be chosen by the people. This tradition is recorded in Matthew 27:17 where it says, “Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?”
Pilate honored the request of the Jews and sent Jesus to be crucified. Likewise, Herod was obliged to release one condemned man from among those being brought forth to be executed. Herod could not take the chance of bringing Peter out to be executed because of the increased number of Jewish Christians in Jerusalem celebrating Christian Pascha. Until the Christian Pascha ended Jerusalem would be populated by an exaggerated number of Christian pilgrims who had come to town to celebrate. Herod planned to wait until the Christian pilgrims had left Jerusalem and returned home so there would be no chance that the crowd would demand Peters release. Thus it was the Christian pascha (Easter) which Herod was waiting to pass, not the Passover. It is my contention that the translators of the KJV rightly discerned this context and properly chose Easter, the only English word they could have used to distinguish between the Jewish and Christian Pascha’s.
The link between the Jewish Pascha and the Christian Pascha has been well documented in this article. Moreover, the context of Acts 12 has been shown to support the use of the word Easter in the KJV. I leave you with one following thought which is expressed below.
There are two mindsets one can have when considering difficult passages: One can try to find error or one can try to find truth. As Christians we are commanded to “2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” I believe the proper mindset for the Christian is to study with the goal of proving the Bible to be true. I do not support the idea of ignoring facts which make me uncomfortable, but when it comes to the Bible, I think it is sound logic to work with the utmost intensity to prove the Bible true. It took great determination in my study to arrive at the conclusions I have presented in this document, and even though the truths were lying on the surface ready to be found, it much time, prayer, and work to find what was already there.” Pastor Evans
More Notes From The Internet
Eostre never existed? why Easter is NOT a Pagan Holiday
- Let’s dispose of a few dodgy claims first. We have all heard that Easter derives from an Anglo-Saxon festival dedicated to the Goddess Eostre – but no one has ever found any evidence for the existence of this Goddess, outside of the Christian monk Bede, who in De temporum ratione wrote
- Bede, c.700
- Eostur-monath has a name which is now translated Paschal month, and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance
- This was his attempted etymology of Easter – which is only called that in English of course. The problem is that as the Goddess in question, Eostre is completely unknown otherwise, and Bede was an enthusiast for adopting pagan customs in to Christianity or allowing them to persist where it did not impact on Christian doctrine where possible (out of kindness and a desire to allow people to keep their old ways), so this proposed etymology is probably spurious. In the 19th century a German antiquarian invented Osatra, as the German form, using Bede as his source.
- Bede admits this idea is his speculation – he is not actually aware of a goddess called Eostre, he just thinks there was one. There is not a single reference to her, from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, any of the other writings we have from the period, or from inscriptions. No depiction – no amulets – nothing. Her Germanic version was invented completely in the 19th century, and again has no evidence whatsoever from history or archaeology to back it up. So Bede was, as he often was, wrong – but in line with his own slightly odd but very humane prejudices.
Notes from the Internet-Brother Steven Avery researched a bit more on the early Christian celebration of the annual event known as Easter. He posted the foliowing information.Let’s point out a bit about the antiquity reference of Irenaeus.Origines ecclesiasticae: or, The antiquities of the Christian church and other works … with the quotations at length, in the original languages, and a biographical account of the author, Vol 5 (1840)Joseph Bingham… Irenaeus observes to Pope Victor, when he was rashly going to excommunicate the Asiatic Churches for their different way of observing Easter,“That his predecessor, Anicetus, was far from this uncharitable temper. For when Polycarp came to Rome, though they could not come to a perfect agreement in this point, to have all the Churches observe Easter on the same day; yet this difference made no contention between them. For they gave each other the kiss of peace, and communicated together: Anicetus paying Polycarp the customary civility and respect, to let him consecrate the eucharist in his Church.”================So Polycarp of Smyrna, the disciple of John, was involved in pascha controversy with Ancietus, the bishop of Rome, early in the 2nd century. Clearly their traditions went back to the apostolic era of the 1st century.Additional early references (staying in the first two centuries AD) are from Claudius Apollinaris and the Epistle of Barnabas. One additional scholarship source is The Origins of Pascha and Great Week by Alkiviadis C. Calivas, 1992.================A History of Christianity: Volume I: Beginnings to 1500: (1956)Kenneth Scott LatouretteAn acute early controversy, one which ran concurrently with those aroused by Gnosticism, Marcionism, and Montanism, was over the time for the celebration of Easter. Although our first certain notice of Easter is from the middle of the second century, that festival, commemorating the resurrection of Christ, was presumably observed by at least some Christians from much earlier times.===========And much earlier means 1st century. And really, when we see the Corinthians reference, the solidest understanding is apostolic. So it is time for the contras to put aside all their posturing about pascha not being the Christian passover==Easter in the 1st century.Acts 12:4And 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.1 Corinthians 5:7-8Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened.For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven,neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness;but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Notes from the Internet-
Brother Steven Avery researched a bit more on the early Christian celebration of the annual event known as Easter. He posted the foliowing information.
Let’s point out a bit about the antiquity reference of Irenaeus.
Origines ecclesiasticae: or, The antiquities of the Christian church and other works … with the quotations at length, in the original languages, and a biographical account of the author, Vol 5 (1840)
… Irenaeus observes to Pope Victor, when he was rashly going to excommunicate the Asiatic Churches for their different way of observing Easter,
“That his predecessor, Anicetus, was far from this uncharitable temper. For when Polycarp came to Rome, though they could not come to a perfect agreement in this point, to have all the Churches observe Easter on the same day; yet this difference made no contention between them. For they gave each other the kiss of peace, and communicated together: Anicetus paying Polycarp the customary civility and respect, to let him consecrate the eucharist in his Church.”
So Polycarp of Smyrna, the disciple of John, was involved in pascha controversy with Ancietus, the bishop of Rome, early in the 2nd century. Clearly their traditions went back to the apostolic era of the 1st century.
Additional early references (staying in the first two centuries AD) are from Claudius Apollinaris and the Epistle of Barnabas. One additional scholarship source is The Origins of Pascha and Great Week by Alkiviadis C. Calivas, 1992.
A History of Christianity: Volume I: Beginnings to 1500: (1956)
Kenneth Scott Latourette
An acute early controversy, one which ran concurrently with those aroused by Gnosticism, Marcionism, and Montanism, was over the time for the celebration of Easter. Although our first certain notice of Easter is from the middle of the second century, that festival, commemorating the resurrection of Christ, was presumably observed by at least some Christians from much earlier times.
And much earlier means 1st century. And really, when we see the Corinthians reference, the solidest understanding is apostolic. So it is time for the contras to put aside all their posturing about pascha not being the Christian passover==Easter in the 1st century.
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.
1 Corinthians 5:7-8
Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened.
For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven,
neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness;
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.Notes from the Internet-Brother Steven Avery researched a bit more on the early Christian celebration of the annual event known as Easter. He posted the foliowing information.Let’s point out a bit about the antiquity reference of Irenaeus.Origines ecclesiasticae: or, The antiquities of the Christian church and other works … with the quotations at length, in the original languages, and a biographical account of the author, Vol 5 (1840)Joseph Bingham… Irenaeus observes to Pope Victor, when he was rashly going to excommunicate the Asiatic Churches for their different way of observing Easter,“That his predecessor, Anicetus, was far from this uncharitable temper. For when Polycarp came to Rome, though they could not come to a perfect agreement in this point, to have all the Churches observe Easter on the same day; yet this difference made no contention between them. For they gave each other the kiss of peace, and communicated together: Anicetus paying Polycarp the customary civility and respect, to let him consecrate the eucharist in his Church.”================So Polycarp of Smyrna, the disciple of John, was involved in pascha controversy with Ancietus, the bishop of Rome, early in the 2nd century. Clearly their traditions went back to the apostolic era of the 1st century.Additional early references (staying in the first two centuries AD) are from Claudius Apollinaris and the Epistle of Barnabas. One additional scholarship source is The Origins of Pascha and Great Week by Alkiviadis C. Calivas, 1992.================A History of Christianity: Volume I: Beginnings to 1500: (1956)Kenneth Scott LatouretteAn acute early controversy, one which ran concurrently with those aroused by Gnosticism, Marcionism, and Montanism, was over the time for the celebration of Easter. Although our first certain notice of Easter is from the middle of the second century, that festival, commemorating the resurrection of Christ, was presumably observed by at least some Christians from much earlier times.===========And much earlier means 1st century. And really, when we see the Corinthians reference, the solidest understanding is apostolic. So it is time for the contras to put aside all their posturing about pascha not being the Christian passover==Easter in the 1st century.Acts 12:4And 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.1 Corinthians 5:7-8Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened.For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven,neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness;but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Answers in Genesis article on Easter, proving that it was not in reference to some pagan goddess, but to the resurrection of Christ.
Notes from the Internet-Let’s point out a bit about the antiquity reference of Irenaeus.Joseph Bingham================================A History of Christianity: Volume I: Beginnings to 1500: (1956)Kenneth Scott Latourette===========Acts 12:4And 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.1 Corinthians 5:7-8Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened.For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven,neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness;but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth..Notes from the Internet-Let’s point out a bit about the antiquity reference of Irenaeus.Joseph Bingham================================A History of Christianity: Volume I: Beginnings to 1500: (1956)Kenneth Scott Latourette===========Acts 12:4And 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.1 Corinthians 5:7-8Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened.For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven,neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness;but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.