Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
Is Easter Still Pagan?
In the May/June 1993 Plain Truth magazine, the cover article discusses the resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah. But a careful reading of this article reveals a subtle and 180 degree change in Worldwide Church of God theology -- for this article plainly refers to "Easter" as "Christian," and in no way even hints at its distinctive PAGAN origin. Which leads one to ask in all seriousness -- does the Worldwide Church of God no longer consider Easter to be a PAGAN holiday observed wrongly by an apostate Christianity?
by HOIM Staff
It is often been said that the "sin of omission" is just as great as the sin of commission. If that is true, then the editors and writers of the Plain Truth magazine have sinned greatly! Or is it all a calculated attempt to subtilely change church doctrine in order to be considered "acceptable" in the eyes of the Christian-professing world?
In the May/June 1993 issue of the Plain Truth, author Paul Kroll writes,
"Traditionally, during this time of the year CHRISTIANS throughout the world celebrate EASTER in remembrance of Jesus' resurrection. The Christian Easter season continues to Pentecost, which commemorates the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and Jesus' other followers.
"These two days, VENERATED BY THE CHRISTIAN WORLD, PICTURE MIRACLES IMPORTANT TO CHRISTIANITY" (p. 7, emphasis mine).
But hold on, here! A new reader of the church's publication, reading the above lines, would immediately assume that the Worldwide Church of God endorses Easter observance as a chief "Christian" holiday! Throughout the remainder of the article and the entire magazine, there is no hint, no mention, and absolutely no reference to "Easter" as being today or ever being, a PAGAN name, of a pagan goddess of springtime and fertility, or of the PAGAN origin of "Easter eggs," the "Easter Bunny," hot-cross buns, or other customs associated in the popular mind with the holiday of "Easter"!
Was this a mere "oversight"? What is going on, here? The Worldwide Church of God is obviously no longer associating itself with the teaching that Easter Sunday is a PAGAN holiday and was never observed by the apostolic Church -- by either the apostles or their congregations, during the first century A.D.! A reader of the May/June issue of the church's magazine would receive the distinct impression that Easter observance is all right -- it is the "Christian" thing to do -- and that along with Pentecost it is a chief "Christian" holiday, in the words of the author, "venerated by the CHRISTIAN WORLD"!
The Worldwide Church of God knows very well, of course, the PAGAN origin of the holiday called "Easter." The English word "Easter" long antedates Christianity. Originally it referred to the celebration of the spring sun, and new life in the springtime. The ancient Teutonic goddess of spring was named "Eostre."
A New CONSPIRACY Afoot
Easter is but a more modern form of the ancient goddess Ishtar, Astarte, Eostre, Ostera, another name for Semiramis. The ancient pronunciation of the name of this goddess was just like the way we pronounce "Easter," today! Says historian Alexander Hislop of this festival:
"Then look at Easter. What means the term Easter itself? It is not a Christian name. It bears its Chaldean origin on its very forehead. Easter is nothing else than Astarte, one of the titles of Beltis, the QUEEN OF HEAVEN, whose name, as pronounced by the people of Nineveh, was evidently identical with that now in common use in this country. That name, as found by Layard on the Assyrian monuments, is Ishtar (The Two Babylons, p. 103).
Alexander Hislop continues, showing now this ancient PAGAN festival crept into the professing Church of YEHOVAH God centuries after the time of the original apostles. He writes:
"To conciliate the pagans to nominal Christianity, Rome, pursuing its usual policy, took measures to get the Christian and Pagan festivals AMALGAMATED, and, by a complicated but skillful adjustment of the calendar, it was found no difficult matter, in general, to get Paganism and Christianity -- NOW FAR SUNK IN IDOLATRY -- in this as in so many other things, to shake hands" (p. 105).
James George Frazer in his epic book The Golden Bough, wrote:
"When we reflect how often the Church has skillfully contrived to plant the seeds of the new faith ON THE OLD STOCK OF PAGANISM, we must surmise that the EASTER celebration of the dead and risen Christ was GRAFTED UPON a similar celebration of the dead and risen ADONIS, which...was celebrated in Syria at the same season" (p. 345).
Alan W. Watts, in Easter, Its Story and Meaning, was so amazed by the similarities between the Catholic Easter and the spring rites of ancient pagan religions, that he exclaimed:
"The points of resemblance between the Christ story, on the one hand, and the MYTH AND RITUAL OF ANCIENT AND 'PAGAN' CULTS, on the other, IS AT TIMES STARTLING ENOUGH TO LOOK LIKE A CONSPIRACY" (p. 22).
And that same conspiracy is once again rearing its ugly head, and sharpening its claws, and moistening its lips, its fangs gleaming, ready to DEVOUR the people of YEHOVAH God and members of the Church of YEHOVAH God, during these End-Times!
There is a Satanic CONSPIRACY afoot to destroy the faith and doctrines of the Worldwide Church of God, and to make it part-and-parcel of this world's MYSTERY BABYLON religion!
How Easter Crept into the Original Church
Eusebius, the early church historian who lived in the fourth century, relates that Bishop Sixtus of Rome was the first not to observe the Passover, and began observing Easter Sunday in its place (between A.D. 116-126). This was during the reign of Emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117-138), who adopted a Roman policy of radical repression of Jewish rites and customs.
Early Christians in most places observed the Jewish Passover, up until 135 A.D. and the Roman conquest of Jerusalem, when the headquarters Jewish Church was finally discontinued, and Jews were banished from the city. The new Greek bishops appointed by the Romans to oversee the new Gentile Christian church in Jerusalem, observed the Roman "Easter," thus provoking the controversy into sharp focus after 135 A.D. By this time the "Easter" tradition was strong enough to challenge the authentic Passover truth of the apostles and their successors.
About 154 A.D. Polycarp, who had observed the Passover with the apostle John and other of the original apostles, traveled to Rome to discuss the growing controversy arising between the church at Rome, and those observing the pagan Easter, stating the Messiah arose from the dead on that day [while it is true the Messiah arose from the dead on the first day of the week according to the Jewish reckoning, it is not a day to be set aside and observed], and the churches in the East which observed the apostolic tradition of Passover. The meeting with Anicetus ended in a deadlock, neither persuading the other to change.
Later, in the days of Victor of Rome (189-199 A.D.), the dispute became very severe, as Victor sought to force his views on the other bishops in the East. Polycrates, the leader of the Asian bishops at this time, wrote to Victor, in reply to his blustering and threats:
"We for our part keep the day scrupulously, without addition or sub- traction. For in Asia great luminaries sleep who shall rise again on the day of the Lord's advent, when He is coming with glory from heaven and shall search out all His saints -- such as Philip, one of the twelve apostles...Again there is John, who leant back on the Lord's breast, and who became a sacrificing priest wearing the mitre, a martyr, and a teacher; he too sleeps in Ephesus. Then in Smyrna there is Polycarp, bishop and martyr...and Thraseas, the bishop and martyr from Eumenia, who also sleeps in Smyrna. Need I mention Sagaris, bishop and martyr, who sleeps in Laodicea, or blessed Papirius, or Melito the eunuch....
"ALL OF THESE KEPT THE FOURTEENTH DAY OF THE MONTH AS THE BEGINNING OF THE PASCHAL FESTIVAL, IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE GOSPEL, NOT DEVIATING IN THE LEAST BUT FOLLOWING THE RULE OF THE FAITH. Last of all, I too, Polycrates, the least of you all, act according to the tradition of my family, some members of which I have actually followed; for seven of them were bishops and I am the eighth, and my family have always kept the DAY WHEN THE PEOPLE PUT AWAY THE LEAVEN. So I, my friends, after spending sixty-five years in the Lord's service and conversing with Christians from all parts of the world, and going carefully through all Holy Scripture, AM NOT SCARED OF THREATS. Better people than I have said: 'We must obey God rather than men'" (Eusebius, The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine, p. 231).
Upon receiving this letter from Polycrates, Victor was furious, and immediately published circulars excommunicating the Asian bishops, who refused to adopt the Easter Sunday tradition, and EXCOMMUNICATED ALL THE CHURCHES OF ASIA! He was scarcely restrained from implementing his plan by cooler heads.
How Paganism Finally Gets Baptized
The controversy continued simmering and boiling in Christendom, until the early fourth century, when Emperor Constantine called the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. to settle, among other matters, the "Easter question" once and for all. At this time, the Roman Empire had become extremely anti-Semitic, or anti-Jewish. Constantine, himself, hated the Jews, and since he controlled the bishops at the Council, with the authority and influence of his power, the Council decreed:
"All the brethren in the East who formerly celebrated Easter [sic, he should have said 'Passover'] with the Jews, will henceforth keep it at the SAME TIME AS THE ROMANS, WITH US..."
Constantine himself, deploring the division in the church, which he wanted to make the state religion of the Roman Empire, exhorted all the bishops at the Council of Nicea to embrace "the practice which is observed at once in the city of Rome, and in Africa, throughout Italy, and in Egypt" (Bacchiochi, From Sabbath to Sunday, p. 204).
Renown scholar J.B. Lightfoot asserts that Rome and Alexandria [symbolical of Babylon and Egypt -- the two countries which YEHOVAH God called His servants to come OUT of!] both adopted Easter-Sunday in order to avoid even resembling the Jews. He wrote:
"In the Paschal controversy of the second century, the bishops of Jerusalem, Caesarea, Tyre and Ptolemais ranged themselves not with Asia Minor, which regulated the Easter festival by Jewish passover, but with Rome and Alexandria, thus avoiding even the semblance of Judaism" (The Apostolic Fathers, 1885, II, part 1, p. 88).
The pagan Emperor Constantine sought to establish a WORLD RELIGION totally free from all Jewish influence! He stated, regarding Easter:
"It appeared an unworthy thing that in the celebration of this most holy feast we should follow the practice of the Jews, who have impiously defiled their hands with enormous sin...Let us therefore have NOTHING IN COMMON with the detestable Jewish crowd...." (Eusebius, Life of Constantine, NPNF, I, p. 524-525).
Thus the truth of YEHOVAH God was buried in an avalanche of paganism. The truth of the Scriptures was replaced by pagan superstition. Passover was replaced by Easter, the spring festival of the goddess of fertility and fecundity. The pagan whore-goddess Semiramis, called "Easter," had her celebration engrafted onto the universal Christian Roman Catholic Church!
Writes Will Durant, in The Story of Civilization: Caesar and Christ,
"Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it....the Greek mysteries passed down into the impressive mystery of the Mass. Other PAGAN CULTURES CONTRIBUTED TO THE SYNCRETIST RESULT. From Egypt came the idea of a divine Trinity...from Egypt the adoration of the Mother and Child....The Mithraic ritual so closely resembled the eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass that Christian fathers charged the Devil with INVENTING THESE SIMILARITIES to mislead frail minds. Christianity was the LAST GREAT CREATION OF THE ANCIENT PAGAN WORLD" (Vol.III, p. 595).
The Leaven of Paganism
The apostle Paul wrote that a little leaven leavens the whole lump (I Cor. 5:6-7). The "leaven" of Easter began to pollute and contaminate the Church, leading the way for a host of auxiliary doctrines, dogmas, and pagan practices to infiltrate the Church, also.
Alexander Hislop describes how the pagan forty-day "fast" of Lent, and Easter, were both incorporated into Church doctrine by the Roman Catholic Church, with the abbot Dionysius the Little as the chief instrument in the change-over. Hislop explains:
"This change of the calendar in regard to Easter was attended with momen- tous consequences. It brought into the Church the GROSSEST CORRUPTION and the RANKEST SUPERSTITION in connection with the abstinence of Lent. Let any one only read the ATROCITIES that were commemorated during the 'sacred fast' or Pagan Lent, as described by Arnobius and Clemens Alexandrinus, and surely he must blush for the Christianity of those who, WITH THE FULL KNOWLEDGE OF ALL THESE ABOMINATIONS, 'went down to Egypt for help' to stir up the languid devotion of the DEGENERATE CHURCH, and who could find no more excellent way to 'revive' it, than by borrowing from so polluted a source; the ABSURDITIES and ABOMINATIONS connected with which the early Christian writers had held up to scorn. That Christians should ever THINK of introducing the Pagan abstinence of Lent was a sign of evil; it showed how LOW THEY HAD SUNK, and it was also a CAUSE OF EVIL; it inevitably led to DEEPER DEGRADATION. Originally, even in Rome, Lent, with the preceding REVELRIES OF THE CARNIVAL, was entirely unknown....
But at last, when the worship of ASTARTE was rising into the ascendant, steps were taken to get the whole CHALDEAN LENT of six weeks, or forty days, made imperative on all within the Roman Empire of the West" (ibid., p. 106-107).
Hislop points out how Lent became mandated by a council of the church held at Aurelia about 519 A.D. This Council decreed that Lent should be solemnly observed before Easter. Says Hislop:
"The difference, in point of time, betwixt the Christian PASCH [Passover], as observed in Britain by the native Christians, and the PAGAN EASTER ENFORCED BY ROME, at the time of enforcement, was a whole month; and it was ONLY BY VIOLENCE AND BLOODSHED, AT LAST, THAT THE FESTIVAL OF THE ANGLO-SAXON OR CHALDEAN GODDESS CAME TO SUPERSEDE that which had been held in honour of Christ.
"Such is the history of Easter. The popular observances that still attend the period of its celebration amply confirm the testimony of history as to its Babylonian character. The hot cross buns of Good Friday, and the dyed eggs of Pasch or Easter Sunday, figured in the Chaldean rites just as they do now. The 'buns' known too by that identical name, were used in the worship of the QUEEN OF HEAVEN, THE GODDESS EASTER, as early as the days of Cecrops, the founder of Athens -- that is, 1500 years before the Christian era" (ibid., p. 107-108).
Nowhere in the Bible do we find the saints or people of YEHOVAH God ever observing this pagan day. In fact, YEHOVAH God commands very plainly, "Learn NOT the way of the heathen" (Jer. 10:1). Yeshua the Messiah never observed "Easter." Nor did he command his apostles or church to ever observe it! The one place the word "Easter" is found in the New Testament, it is a flagrant mistranslation of the Greek word Pascha, meaning "Passover" (Acts 12:4), as all the more accurate modern translations show.
A Modern Day APOSTASY!
The evidence seems to clearly indicate that, in order to drum up enthusiasm among its increasingly lethargic, and lukewarm membership, the modern Worldwide Church of God has set its course to imitate the Catholic Church during the early centuries, and is once again BRINGING IN PAGAN PRACTICES to stimulate an artificial form of excitement, passion, and interest in the Church and its activities!
As history itself indicates, this will no doubt be followed by indulgence in the more gross forms of pagan absurdities, revelries, and artificial "joy" -- the kind that comes from excess, drunkenness, and WILD debaucheries of human nature. As the Church suffers a serious decline in income, due to loss of the more earnest members who are beginning to leave its ranks in droves, it will seek to hold on to those who remain by appealing to the fleshly desires of human nature, with the same techniques and reasonings and sophistries of the apostate Roman Catholic Church.
I must surely ask the question, "Is Easter still considered PAGAN by the Worldwide Church of God?" Does YEHOVAH God no longer command His people to come out of Babylonian religious practices and beliefs, stemming from ancient paganism? Is it now all right for Christians -- and therefore members of the Church -- to observe Easter? And, of course, what about Christmas, the world's other chief holiday supposedly "Christian" but which is celebrated on the day of the "unconquerable sun" -- and is a modern counterpart of the ancient pagan SATURNALIA of pagan Rome! Is it also all right to observe, as the supposed "birthday" of the Messiah?
Of course, we should all know that what Joseph Tkach and company tell us, isn't necessarily the "final word" on the subject. The WORD OF YEHOVAH GOD is our final authority! And in the Word of YEHOVAH God, we find YEHOVAH's straightforward command:
"Ye shall not ADD unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye DIMINISH OUGHT from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you" (Deut.4:2).
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