4 Arguments against Easter Rebutted

“Easter is a pagan holiday.” “You should be celebrating the Savior’s resurrection on Passover/First Fruits, not Easter.” “Easter is a perverted ceremony of fertility and orgies.” “Happy Easter? You mean, ‘Happy Incest Day’!”

I’m not even kidding here. I watched the last quote across my computer screen during a banter with someone who had it out for those who celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter. Of course, these are usually from the same people who claim that “Sunday worshipers” are worshiping God on the wrong day. Smh…

So what is it with this annual debate on the resurrection that seems to resurrect itself each year? Thankfully, I have seen less attacks against Easter observers this year, but then, perhaps it is because I haven’t been nearly as frequent on social media these past few months while my family and I are getting ready to welcome a new baby boy and get our Forge Podcast to become regular. But looters of our joy and freedom continue to discourage the church placating some sort of superior knowledge, much like the believing Pharisees of Acts 15.

So here are four most commonly heard arguments against observing Easter – and here are my answers to them.

1. The Origins of Easter are Pagan.

This is perhaps the most common statement made to argue that those who observe Easter and associated practices (such as the Easter bunny, egg hunts, etc.) are partaking in paganism. In fact, this is probably the only argument you will hear against Easter. The remaining three arguments I will bring up are variations and branches which all hang on this first premise.

So what of it? Is it true?

“Easter” comes from the Latin “Pascha” and the Greek “πάσχα” (G3957 pascha).[1][2][3] Interestingly, this word is derived from the Hebrew “Pesach, or Passover in the New Testament (i.e. Matt. 26:2, Mark 14:1, Luke 2:41, John 13:1, etc.). Of course, modern day practice of Easter and the biblical practice of Passover are very dissimilar. For instance, there is no mention of a bunny or eggs anywhere in Scripture pertaining to Passover (which will be the spark of another argument commonly made). Why is that so? Is Easter even Christian?

Ishtar, the Goddess of War Fertility, and Sex… and other unrelated nonsense…

Neither Reasonable Nor Scientific

A meme went gone viral a few years ago depicting a relief sculpture of what appears to be an ancient goddess (see to the right).  It claimed that “Easter was originally the celebration of Ishtar, the Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of fertility and sex symbols.” Of course! That’s what the eggs and bunnies are for… Wait, what? Anyone else reading this and picturing the Reese’s commercial where a chocolate bunny and a jar of peanut butter get frisky to the tune of Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get it On? Or do bunnies actually lay eggs? I’m not seeing the connection.

For those who care to know, Ishtar was an idol worshiped in ancient Mesopotamia (current day Iraq), in the millennia before the Christian era. Contrary to modern-day spread of misinformation, she was often pictured with the lion, whose roar resembled thunder; not a bunny. In fact, this primary symbol is painted on the eighth gate to the inner city of Babylon (called “Ishtar Gate”) and was constructed in 575 B.C. by Nebuchadnezzar II.[4] (See below.)

Still, it is argued that the eight century English monk, St. Bede wrote of Ishtar in Reckoning of Time. He wrote, “Eosturmonath (the Saxon name for the month of April) 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.”[5]

The problem, though, is that this passage is the only hope that Easter-haters have in validating their argument. There is no hard evidence that such a goddess was ever worshiped by anyone, anywhere. But even if there were, how do we know that any of the practices observed in the Easter holiday have anything to do with the goddess? There are no writings, shrines, or altars documenting the worship of Ishtar, or Eostre, or however anyone wants to spell it.

The Genetic Fallacy. The Nail in the Coffin.

Even if everything said above is untrue and Ishtar was a real goddess and the Easter holiday was indeed established from pagan roots, it would still be irrelevant. Drawing any conclusion based solely on the history, origin,  or source rather than its current meaning or context overlooks any differences which are to be found in the present situation. It is the very definition of a fallacy of origins (genetic fallacy).

So, since even the history of Easter cannot be definitively concluded, why do so many still think that Ishtar and Easter related? Well, as the meme above says, “Easter” has the same pronunciation as “Ishtar”. Yup! You read that right! The wide chasms lacking information are filled by ignorant people eager to commit special knowledge fallacy. This doesn’t disprove their argument, either. But the burden of proof falls on them.

Because of the secular influence, commercialization, and the possibility of pagan origins, some churches have distanced themselves calling Easter “Resurrection Sunday.” There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, I call it that myself in order to “be all things to all men” so that the focus is not taken from the gospel and put onto something so insignificant. Do not be discouraged, whatever you choose to call the holiday. It is meant as a celebration of our life rescued, though we were enemies of God, who now find ourselves on our way to becoming His righteousness! That is worth celebrating!

2. Christians should be celebrating Passover, not Easter.

Hebrew Rooters usually get involved in the debate every year, and their argument is slightly different. They argue from Deuteronomy 12:30 that God hates when we worship Him in ways that we have for other gods.

[Deuteronomy 12:30, NASB] …beware that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?’

I actually agree with this wholeheartedly! But wait… is that what we’re doing? Based on my rebuttal from the first argument, Easter doesn’t seem to be associated with any gods, and even if it were, they are not gods we have ever worshiped in our lifetime. In fact, I’m willing to bet that most who have never heard of this yearly debate have never even heard of Ishtar or Eostre. But that doesn’t matter to Hebrew Root advocates. They ignorantly claim that for those observing Easter, we are sinning in ignorance.

The celebration of Passover is in remembrance of the time in Israel’s history when the Lord took the life of every firstborn in Egypt whose door was not covered by the blood of lamb; the final of the ten plagues. It was this feast that Israel had to eat before being led out of slavery – a foreshadow of Jesus and His blood poured out for us on the cross, freeing us from bondage to sin. We read the ordinance and practice of Passover mandated in the Old Covenant. There is certainly nothing wrong with a Christian observing Passover. Indeed, I highly recommend it if only for the historical and hermeneutical benefit for the student of Scripture and disciple of Christ. But it is not required. For if it was, then salvation would be based on works.

Another piece to this argument is that Jesus observed Passover, and therefore, so should we. Here’s the problem with using that argument. And it’s not because Jesus was perfect and we’re not; I strongly dislike that line of thinking as well. Jesus obeyed every single one of the Laws. He had to! In order to be the prophesied Messiah to take away the sin of the world, He had to be unblemished and perfect. After all, didn’t He write the Law? (See our last premise on Salvation in our Statement of Faith.) But that was made obsolete when death took this righteous Man illegitimately, because death is only a wage for those with sin – and He had none. Taking our sin, he took the Mosaic Law leaving behind His own Law – which is to love the Lord with all of our hearts, minds, soul, and strength; and to love our neighbor as ourselves – upon which all of the Mosaic Law hangs.

Sadly, many in Hebrew Roots believe that salvation is based on works. But Paul is clear that no one will be justified by the works of the Law (Galatians 2:16, Romans 3:20). Be convinced in your own mind whether you should observe these shadows.

3. Easter was established by the Roman Catholic Church.

This was a new one I had never heard before. It is said that as gentiles moved into the church, the Roman Catholics persecuted the Jews in attempts to win over the gentiles. And so they moved away from Judaism and attempted to adapt the gentiles’ pagan rituals and festivals to Christianity; including Saturnalia (which supposedly later became Christmas), Halloween (which is actually of Christian origins).

The council of Nicea (A.D. 325) seems to be the origin when the day of Easter was nailed down to always be celebrated on a Sunday, taken from the fact that Christ’s tomb was found empty on a Sunday morning (Matthew 28:1, Luke 24:1, John 20:1). The tradition, therefore, was established officially by the Roman Catholic church whose council it was at Nicea.

Um… so what? Are we so protestant to believe that anything the Roman Catholic Church said or did – says or does – should be automatically dismissed? Exactly how much of these arguments against Easter commit genetic fallacy anyway? (Answer: All of them.) The RCC also established the Trinity doctrine, affirmed that Jesus is the Son of God sent to die for the sins of the world, and that only through Him and in service to Him can one be saved. Surely, there is a litany of unbiblical teachings as well. But one can’t assume that something is wrong universally so long as a specific person said it. That’s ad hominem, genetic fallacy, fallacy of composition… it’s simply an illogical way of thinking. Though there is much I disagree with regarding Catholic doctrine (much of which pertains to salvation and would render the church non-Christian, or unbiblical at best), this is perhaps the most easily dismissed argument they can make against us who observe Easter.

4. Easter Practices are Pagan

I know, I know. Didn’t we already cover this? Well, we covered the origins of Easter. But, I know this argument will come up, as well, because even if you’ve proven and dismissed the foolishness of the first argument, they will still argue against the specific practices. So let’s list them here.

Easter Day is Lunisolar – Pagan

It’s true that Easter is considered a “movable” holiday because it lands on the first Sunday after the first ecclesiastical full moon after March 21. But the timing of Easter has certainly nothing to do with pagan roots as much as it has to do with Jewish roots.

The crucifixion coincided with Passover. (Read more about that here.) According to Scripture and Jewish tradition, Passover is celebrated on the 15th day (a full moon) of the month of Nisan (March or April). The lunisolar calendar is actually Jewish, the days beginning at nightfall and ending the next day at sunset.

Easter Eggs – Pagan

It’s easy to see how eggs represent rebirth and life. A traditional game exists in the orthodox church held on the first hours of Easter Sunday where children whack two hardboiled eggs together until one of them cracks. The unbroken egg symbolizes the resurrection while the cracked egg represents the gates of Hell breaking. The winner says, “He is risen,” to which the person holding the cracked egg replies, “He is risen indeed!” (This verbal transfer is often seen in American evangelical churches.)

Another explanation has been offered regarding Lent, the 40-day fast prior to Easter which many Christians observe. This fast forbids eggs, among other foods of flesh, to be eaten. But while we may fast, hens continue to lay eggs anyway. The story goes that families would cook them in order to prevent them from spoiling and then eat them on Easter. This is a more pragmatic explanation, to me.

There are many explanations for the egg as a symbol in Easter – none of which give glory to some Assyrian idol, though.

Note: One story I was told as a child regarding the plastic eggs was interesting to me. It is a bit sad, but a good reminder that these season are what you make of them.

Easter Bunny – Pagan

Yea, I’ve got nothing in regards to how bunny has to do with Easter at all – pagan or religious. Again, Ishtar’s primary animal was a lion, contrary to the knee-jerk argument sure to play here. However, looking at Britannica Encyclopedia to see what they had to say about it, immediately it begins explaining it as a custom in Protestant areas in Europe during the 17th century as a rejection of Catholic Easter customs. (Kind of dissolves the third argument, if true, doesn’t it.)

Historically, though, the Easter bunny bringing eggs appears to have been brought to the United States by settlers from Germany. At first, the animal which would bring eggs to children was not necessarily a bunny. Some traditions included a cuckoo bird, a fox, a rooster, or a stork. But eventually the hare won and Germany began baking bunny pastries. In fact, as I was researching Easter, more and more of German Lutheran traditions came up. According to Wikipedia, the bunny among German Lutherans originally played the role of judge, evaluating the behavior of children at the start of the Eastertide season. In fact, it shows similarities to Santa Clause.

Personally, I see no purpose to the Easter bunny in my house, and so I leave that part out. I explain to my children, if they ever see someone dressed as the Easter bunny, that it’s just a costume and he’s not real, just as I do with Santa Clause (who I also leave out of our family traditions).

Conclusion

The focus necessarily needs to be on the resurrection of Jesus Christ and that truth applied to us in the form of freedom and everlasting life. If Easter distracts you from that, then do not observe it. For those who must observe, do so in humility and in grace of those who don’t. As Paul said, be all things to all men for the sake of the gospel that you may partake in the inheritance. Otherwise, let “no one… act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day” (Col. 2:16). Instead, in all things, honor God with your entire being, and love as He loved.

SOURCES

[1] Britannica Encyclopedia: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Easter-holiday

[2] Blue Letter Bible: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=nasb&strongs=g3957

[3] Online Etymology Dictionary: https://www.etymonline.com/word/Easter

[4] Kleiner, Fred (2005), Gardner’s Art Through the Ages, Belmont, California: Thompson Learning, Inc., p. 49

[5] Wallis, Faith (1999), Bede: The Reckoning of Time, Liverpool, EU: The Cromwell Press, Trowbridge, Wiltshire. p. 54

By |2018-05-29T08:07:17+00:00March 30th, 2018|blog|0 Comments

About the Author:

Aaron Gilmore is a Christian Apologist and is the founder and president of Bereans Aflame founded in 2014. He is husband and father to four children and serves diversely in his local church. Currently, he heads the IT Department at a Dallas-Fort Worth vocation center instructing students in IT certifications. He is a student at Lamar University in Texas studying for his B.S. in Communications. He plans to continue his education and attend Southern Evangelical Seminary for his Masters of Divinity in Apologetics, and ultimately his Doctorates in Philosophy.