It is common knowledge among Bible students that there is no vestige of authority in the Bible for the special observance of the particular first day of the week, commonly called “Easter Sunday.” The word “Easter” is not in the Bible. It does appear one time in the King James Version, in Acts 12:4. But the Greek word there is pascha. This word is found twenty-nine times in the Greek New Testament, and is consistently translated “Passover,” except in this one verse. Twenty eight times it is translated as Passover. It should be translated as Passover here. In the American Standard Version, it is rendered Passover. In all reliable translations made since the King James, it is translated “Passover.” There is no authority whatever on textual grounds for rendering it Easter. In his commentary on this passage, Adam Clarke said: “Perhaps there never was a more unhappy, not to say absurd, translation than that in our text.”
Further, a study of the context of Acts 12:4 shows that the writer is speaking of the Passover, not “Easter Sunday.” Out of respect to the Passover season, Herod deferred bringing Peter forth from prison to the people—that is, to be tried and executed. Herod was on the side of the opposition to the church. If the pascha of this verse had been a peculiarly “holy day” among Christians, he would have had no respect for it. The translation of pascha as Easter in this verse is inconsistent with the context. As it is now regarded by the denominational world and a few poorly informed members of the church, Easter is a mixture of paganism, Judaism, and Christianity. Easter derives from an Anglo-Saxon goddess; the origin of the other elements is obvious. In chasing after the denominations, some congregations have lately adopted Easter observances, theme commemorations, Easter egg hunts, etc. They will not find these things in the word of God, which still says, “Ye observe days, and months, and seasons, and years. I am afraid of you, lest by any means I have bestowed labor upon you in vain,” (Gal. 4:10-11).
God has prescribed that all worship acceptable to Him be in spirit and in truth. Since He has made no provisions for any kind of special observance of so-called “Easter Sunday,” it cannot be in truth. It cannot, therefore, be pleasing to Him. It is not a great surprise if denominational preachers do not know any better. But it is surprising that some professed preachers of the Gospel do not know better than to join hands with denominationalism to celebrate “Easter Sunday” in performances unknown to the New Testament. To this extent, such men are not sound in the faith. All loyal Christians will condemn their actions.
A celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a feature of the Christian life every day, not one day singled out from others. We find no instance in the early church of New Testament Christians celebrating the resurrection of Christ on a specific day. This practice was an invention of men, many years later. Its trappings have their roots in paganism and Catholicism, not in the New Testament.
Still, some argue that we can appeal to our denominational friends by adopting their practices, giving their children the fun of an Easter egg hunt or treating them to an Easter worship service. Will this reasoning withstand analysis? Did Jesus adopt the man-made traditions of the Pharisees in order to win them? Did Paul practice the pagan observances which he encountered in Athens? In both cases, the answer is no. Rather, Jesus and Paul called out these errors for what they were. In all cases, God’s people had “no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove[d] them,” (Eph. 5:11).
Those who insist on incorporating unauthorized observances into their religious activities at this time of year, do so at their own peril, and they mislead our young people, who grow up believing these things are normal and proper. It then becomes doubly difficult to show them the error of their ways. This is especially true when such activities include family and social aspects which are in themselves very pleasant and enjoyable. They create good memories, and are difficult to expose as anything other than acceptable. May we be content to walk with and keep pace with our Lord, rather than going beyond the “things which are written,” (1 Cor. 4:6). May we humbly maintain the distinctive purity of primitive Christianity, even at this time of year!
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.