"Easter Sunday"is an annual holiday celebrated by millions. . But, were you aware . . . that the church of the New Testament did not observe a YEARLY observance of the Lord's resurrection.
The word "Easter" is found only once in the KJV Bible in Acts 12:4. The Greek word translated "Easter" there is actually "Passover" and is so translated elsewhere in the KJV 28 other times. Obviously, the translators of the A.D. 1611 translation were compelled to use the word "Easter." They did so in a passage that the context will show clearly that a Christian holiday is not being discussed. (The killing of the Lord's apostles).
The word "Easter" actually comes from "EASTRE", the Anglo-Saxon name of a Teutonic goddess of Spring and fertility. Many of the customs associated with Easter illustrate this and other pagan connections. The rabbit was sacred to the Germanic goddess "Eastre", the goddess of fertility and Springtime. It appears there was a custom among ancient Egyptians and Romans to give eggs as presents at this time of the year. That was intended to insure that the recipient would have a fertile and productive year.
This ought to prompt some questions in the minds of Christians. . . (1) How did the YEARLY observance of Jesus' resurrection get started? (2) How did pagan names and traditions become associated with a "Christian" holiday? (3) What bearing should all this have on Christians today? For the Lord's church collectively and for Christians individually?
The practice of a yearly observance began early in the form of a "Christian" Passover. Many Jews continued to keep their Jewish customs and religious holidays after their conversion to Christ. Paul was not adverse to observing Jewish customs (Acts 18:18-21). Shortly after the death of the apostles, some of the Jewish festivals began to be observed as Christian festivals. Easter was officially recognized by a church sliding into apostasy in A.D. 325 at the Council of Nicea.
Even though Christ instituted the Lord's Supper as the proper memorial to commemorate his death Lk. 22:14-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-36. Both biblical and historical evidence indicate that this was a WEEKLY observance.
The YEARLY observance soon included Palm Sunday, Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, and a whole season of Lent. Assimilation of pagan practice into "Christian" observances became quite common. The egg, was simply borrowed as a symbol of the Christian holiday. Some were dyed red to represent Christ's shed blood.
Paul kept some Jewish customs when expedient (Acts 18:18; 21:17-26) but his teaching made clear that it should be kept on an individual basis (Rom. 14:5-6) and should not be bound on others (Gal. 2:3-5).
Jesus warned of the danger of human traditions (Mark 7:1-13). Traditions of men are wrong when they become matters of doctrine or practice bound upon all, or when they displace the commands of God by the keeping of the tradition.
The Bible is silent regarding any YEARLY observance of Christ's resurrection. God and Jesus did not deem it necessary for the church. Any yearly observance is based upon human tradition, not God's word. As a human tradition, it cannot become a matter of doctrine. An annual observance of the holiday by the church is at the best unwise, if not wrong.
If an individual chooses in some way to esteem a day, it is between him and the Lord (Rom. 14:5-6). Be sensitive to the convictions of others (Rom. 14:13-19). Explain our stand with care, using the scriptures to guide others from darkness to light.