The Plain Truth About Easter!
By Herbert W. Armstrong
The Resurrection was not on Easter Sunday! Easter is not a Christian name, but the title of the idolatrous "queen of heaven." Here's an explanation of the true origin and meaning of Lent, Easter eggs, and sunrise services!
WHY DO you believe the things you believe, do the things you do?
The chances are you never stopped to ask yourself that question. You
have been taught since childhood to accept Easter as the chief of the Christian
holidays. You have supposed it is part of the true Christian religion to
observe Lent, "Holy Week," "Good Friday," to buy hot cross buns at the
bakery, to have colored Easter eggs, to dress up and go to church Easter
Sunday -- perhaps to attend an Easter sunrise service! Because of the "sheep"
instinct in humans, most of us believe a lot of things that are not true.
Most of us do a lot of things that are wrong, supposing these things to
be right, or even sacred!
Ishtar the Pagan Goddess
What is the meaning of the name "Easter"? You have been led to suppose
the word means "resurrection of Christ." For 1600 years the Western world
has been taught that Christ rose from the dead on Sunday morning. But that
is merely one of the fables the Apostle Paul warned readers of the New
Testament to expect. The resurrection did not occur on Sunday! (For the
astonishing proof setting forth the exact time of the resurrection, write
for our free booklet The Resurrection Was Not on Sunday.) The name "Easter,"
which is merely the slightly changed English spelling of the name of the
ancient Assyrian and Babylonian goddess Ishtar, comes to us from old Teutonic
mythology where it is known as Ostern. The Phoenician name of this goddess
was Astarte, consort of Baal, the sun god, whose worship is denounced by
the Almighty in the Bible as the most abominable of all pagan idolatry.
Look up the word "Easter" in Webster's dictionary. You will find it clearly
reveals the pagan origin of the name. In the large five-volume Hastings
Dictionary of the Bible, only six brief lines are given to the name "Easter,"
because it occurs only once in the Bible -- and that only in the Authorized
King James translation. Says Hastings: "Easter, used in Authorized Version
as the translation of 'Pascha' in Acts 12:4, 'Intending after Easter to
bring him forth to the people.' Revised Standard Version has substituted
correctly 'the Passover.'"
Apostles Observed Passover
The World Almanac, 1968 edition, page 187, says: "In the second century
A.D., Easter Day was, among Christians in Asia Minor [that is, in the Churches
at Ephesus, Galatia, etc. -- the so called "Gentile" churches raised up
by the Apostle Paul] the 14th of Nisan, the seventh month of the Jewish
[civil] calendar." In other words, the 14th day of the first month of the
sacred calendar, and it was not then called by the name of the pagan deity
"Easter," but by the Bible name "Passover." Passover, the Days of Unleavened
Bread, Pentecost, and the holy days God had ordained forever were all observed
by Jesus, and the early apostles, and the converted Gentile Christians
(Acts 2:1; 12:3; 18:21; 20:6, 16; I Cor. 5:7- 8; 16:8). Passover is a memorial
of the crucifixion of Christ (Luke 22:19). Passover, observed by the early
true Church, occurred not on Sunday or any fixed day of the week, but on
a calendar day of the year. The day of the week varies from year to year.
Easter is one of the pagan days Paul warned Gentile converts they must
not return to observing (Gal. 4:9-10). How, then, did this pagan festival
enter into and fasten itself upon a professing Christianity? That is a
surprising story -- but first, notice the true origin and nature of Easter.
Its Chaldean Origin
Easter, as Alexander Hislop says (The Two Babylons, p. 103), "bears
its Chaldean origin on its very forehead. Easter is nothing else than Astarte,
one of the titles of Beltis, the queen of heaven...." The ancient gods
of the pagans had many different names. While this goddess was called Astarte
by the Phoenicians, it appears on Assyrian monuments found by Layard in
excavations at Nineveh as Ishtar (Austen H. Layard, Nineveh and Babylon,
Vol. 11, p. 629). Both were pronounced "Easter." Likewise, Bel (referred
to in the Old Testament), also was called Molech. It was for sacrificing
to Molech (I Kings 11:1-11, especially verse 7. where Molech is called an
abomination) and other pagan gods that the Eternal condemned Solomon, and
rended away the Kingdom of Israel from his son. In the ancient Chaldean
idolatrous sun-worship, as practiced by the Phoenicians, Baal was the sun
god; Astarte, his consort or wife. And Astarte is the same as Ishtar, or
the English "Easter." Says Hislop: "The festival, of which we read in Church
history, under the name of Easter, in the third or fourth centuries, was
quite a different festival from that now observed in the Romish [and Protestant]
Church, and at that time was not known by any such name as Easter. It was
called Pascha, or the Passover, and...was very early observed by many professing
Christians.... That festival agreed originally with the time of the Jewish
Passover, when Christ was crucified.... That festival was not idolatrous,
and it was preceded by no Lent" (The Two Babylons, p. 104).
Where Did We Get Lent?
"Howbeit you should know," wrote Johannes Cassianus (John Cassian) in
the fifth century, "that as long as the primitive church retained its perfection
unbroken, this observance of Lent did not exist" (First Conference Abbot
Theonas, chapter 30). Jesus observed no Lent. The apostles and the early
true Church of God observed no Lenten season. Then how did this observance
originate? "The forty days' abstinence of Lent was directly borrowed from
the worshippers of the Babylonian goddess. Such a Lent of forty days, in
the spring of the year, is still observed by the Yezidis or pagan Devil
worshippers of Koordistan, who have inherited it from their early masters,
the Babylonians. Such a Lent of forty days was held in spring by the Pagan
Mexicans.... Such a Lent of forty days was observed in Egypt..." (The Two
Babylons, pp. 104, 105). In fact this Egyptian Lent of forty days was observed
expressly in honor of Osiris, also known as Adonis in Syria and Tammuz
in Babylonia (Sabaean Researches, by John Landseer, pp. 111, 112). Do you
realize what has happened? God Almighty commanded His people to observe
the Passover forever! (Ex. 12:24.) This command was given while the Israelites
were still in Egypt, prior to the Old Covenant, or the Law of Moses! It
pictured, before the crucifixion, Christ's death for the remission of our
sins, as a type looking forward to it. At His last Passover, Jesus changed
the emblems used from the blood of a lamb and eating its roasted body to
the bread and wine. Jesus did not abolish Passover -- He merely changed
the emblems, or symbols used. All the apostles of Christ and true Christians
of the first century true Church observed it on the 14th day of the first
month of the sacred calendar. It is now a memorial of Christ's death, reaffirming,
year by year on its anniversary, the true Christian's faith in the blood
of Christ for the remission of his sins, and the broken body of Christ
for his physical healing. But what has happened? Do you realize it? All
Western nations have been deceived into dropping the festival God ordained
forever to commemorate the death of the true Saviour for our sins, and
substituting in its place the pagan festival in commemoration of the counterfeit
"savior" and mediator Baal, the sun god, named after the mythical Ishtar,
his wife -- actually none other than the ancient Semiramis, who palmed
herself off as the wife of the sun god, the idolatrous "queen of heaven."
This is not Christian! It is pagan to the core! Yet scores of millions
are deceived into observing this form of heathen idolatry, under the delusion
they are honoring Jesus Christ the Son of the Creator God! Easter does
not honor Christ! And yet, have you not been like a blind sheep, following
the other millions in observing this custom? "The times of this ignorance
God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent" (Acts
But did you know that dyed Easter eggs also figured in the ancient Babylonian
mystery rites, just as they do in Easter observance today? Yes, these are
pagan, too. It is recorded in Edward Davies' The Mythology and Rites of
the British Druids, page 210, that the ancient Druids bore an egg as the
sacred emblem of their idolatrous order. Eggs were sacred to many ancient
civilizations and formed an integral part of the religious ceremonies in
Egypt and in the Orient. According to James Bonwick: "Eggs were hung up
in the Egyptian temples. Bunsen calls attention to the mundane egg, the
emblem of generative life, proceeding from the mouth of the great god of
Egypt. The mystic egg of Babylon, hatching the Venus Ishtar, fell from
heaven to the Euphrates. Dyed eggs were sacred Easter offerings in Egypt,
as they are still in China and Europe. Easter, or spring, was the season
of birth, terrestrial and celestial" (Egyptian Belief and Modern Thought,
pp. 211-212). Why do people who believe themselves to be Christians dye
eggs at Easter? Do they suppose the Bible ordained, or commands, this heathen
custom? There is not a word of it in the New Testament. Certainly Christ
did not start it, and the apostles and early Christians did none of it!
Then why should you do it today? Why follow heathenism and try to convince
yourself you are a Christian? God calls such things abomination!
Easter Sunrise Services
You think Easter sunrise services are beautiful? Listen! God was showing
the Prophet Ezekiel the sins of His people in a vision -- a prophecy for
today! "Turn thee yet again," said God, "and thou shalt see greater abominations
than these [Ezekiel had just been shown, in vision, idol worship among
professing people of God]. And he brought me [in vision] into the inner
court of the Eternal's house, and behold...between the porch and the altar,
were about five and twenty men, with...their faces toward the east; and
they worshipped the sun toward the east. Then he said unto me, Hast thou
seen this, 0 son of man? Is it a light thing...that they commit the abominations
which they commit here?... Therefore will I deal in fury: mine eye shall
not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in mine ears with
a loud voice, yet will I not hear them"! (Ezek. 8:15-18.) Do you grasp
at this most abominable thing is? It is the identical thing millions are
doing every Easter Sunday morning - - the sunrise service -- standing with
their faces toward the east, as the sun is rising, in a service of worship
which honors the sun god and his mythical idolatrous consort, goddess Easter.
Yes, deceived into believing this is Christian, millions practice every
Easter the identical form of the ancient sun worship of the sun god Baal!
Throughout the Bible this is revealed as the most abominable of all idolatry
in the sight of the Eternal Creator!
How Easter Crept Into the Church
Such is the origin and early history of Easter. How, then, was this
pagan festival injected into professing Christian religion, as a substitute
for an ordinance of God? Before revealing briefly the astonishing account
of this great deception, two facts must be firmly fixed in mind. First,
Jesus and the apostles foretold, not a universal, widespread popular growth
of the true New Testament Church, but a falling away from the truth on
the part of the great majority. Prophesying a popular, universal falling
away from the faith once delivered, to the Thessalonians Paul stated, "The
mystery of iniquity doth already work," only some 20 years after the Church
began! He referred to the very "Chaldean Mysteries," of which Easter and
Christmas were the two chief festivals! Second, although Jesus said the
gates of hell would never prevail against His church, yet it is prophesied
in the New Testament to be the "little flock" -- never as a great, large,
popular universal church (Luke 12:32). This is the very fact the world
does not realize today!
TWO Churches---One False, One True
In New Testament prophecy two churches are described. One, the great
and powerful and universal church, a part of the world, actually ruling
in its politics over many nations, and united with the "Holy Roman Empire,"
is brought to a concrete focus in Revelation 17. This church is pictured
with great pomp, ritual and display, decked in purple, scarlet and gold
-- proud, worldly, boastful. She is pictured as a universal deceiver --
all the Western nations spiritually drunk with her false doctrines, their
spiritual perception so blurred by her paganized teachings and practices
they are unable to clearly distinguish truth! She boasts she is the true
Church, yet she is drunken with the blood of the saints she has caused
to be martyred! But how could she have deceived the whole world, as foretold
in God's Word? Surely, the Protestant world isn't deceived! Oh, but it
is! Notice, verse 5, she is a mother church!. Her daughters are also churches
who have come out of her, in protest, calling themselves Protestant --
but they are fundamentally of her family in pagan doctrines and practices!
They, too, make themselves a part of this world, taking active part in
its politics -- the very act which made a "harlot" out of their mother!
The entire apostate family -- mother, and more than 400 daughter denominations,
all divided against each other and in confusion of doctrines, yet all united
in the chief pagan doctrines and festivals -- has a family name! They call
themselves "Christian," but God calls them something else -- "Mystery,
Babylon the Great"! "Babylon" means confusion! God always names people
and things by calling them what they are! And here are the identical ancient
Babylonian Mysteries now wrapped in the false cloak labeled "Christianity"
-- but in fact it is the same old "Babylonian Mystery System." But where,
then, was the true Church?
TRUE Church Small---Scattered
Did the true Church of God, of which Jesus Christ is the living, directing
Head, become perverted -- did it merely apostatize into the system described
above? No! The gates of hell have never prevailed against the true Church
of God, and never will! The true Church has never fallen! It has never
ceased! But the true Church of God is pictured in prophecy as the "little
flock"! The New Testament describes this Church as continually persecuted,
despised by the large popular churches because it is not OF this world
or its politics, but has kept itself unspotted from the world! It has always
kept the Commandments of God and the faith of Jesus (Rev. 12:17). It has
kept God's Festivals, not the pagan holidays. It has been empowered with
the Spirit of God! That Church never became the great popular church at
Rome, as the Protestant world supposes! That Church has always existed,
and it exists today! Then where did it go? Where was it during the Middle Ages? Where is it today? (Write for our free booklet Where Is God's True
Church Today?) First, remember this Church was never large, never politically
powerful, or a world known organization of men. It is a spiritual organism,
not a political organization. It is composed of all whose hearts and lives
have been changed by the Spirit of God, whether visibly together, or individually
scattered. Under the lash of continual persecution and opposition from
the organized forces of this world, it is difficult for such a people to
remain united and organized together. Daniel prophesied the true people
of God would be scattered (Dan. 12:7) Ezekiel foretold it (Ezek. 34:5-12)
Jeremiah, too (Jer. 23:1-2). Jesus foretold it (Matt. 26:31). The apostolic
Church was soon scattered by persecution (Acts 8: 1).
Ignored by Most Histories
You don't read much of this true Body of Christ in the secular histories
of this world! No, the world little notes, nor long remembers, the activities
of this "little flock," hated and despised by the world, driven to the
wilderness by persecution, always opposed, usually scattered! But there
are enough references to it in authentic histories to show that it has
continued through every century to now! The prophecies bring this Church
into concrete focus in the 12th chapter of Revelation. There she is shown
spiritually, in the glory and splendor of the Spirit of God, but visibly
in the world as a persecuted Commandment keeping Church driven into the
wilderness, for 1260 years, through the Middle Ages! Even in Paul's day,
many among those attending at Antioch, at Jerusalem, at Ephesus, at Corinth,
and other places, began to apostatize and turn away from the truth. Divisions
sprang up. Those individuals, unconverted or turned from God's truth and
way of life, were no part of God's true Church, though visibly assembling
with those who were. The "mystery of iniquity" was already working inside
these visible churches. This apostasy increased! By the year A.D. 125 the
majority in most churches, especially those Gentile-born, were continuing
in many of their old pagan beliefs and practices, though professing to
be Christian! Gradually, a smaller and smaller portion of the visible churches
going by the name "Christian" remained truly yielded to God and His truth,
and led of His Spirit. After Constantine took virtual control of the visible,
professing Church in the early fourth century, this visible organization
became almost wholly pagan, and began excommunicating and persecuting all
who held to the true Word of God! Finally, it became necessary for real
Christians, who, even as a scattered people, alone composed the true Christian
Church, to flee from the jurisdiction of Rome in order truly to worship
God! Thus, the visible, organized Church which rose to power was the FALSE
Church -- the "Great Whore" of Revelation 17.
Injected Into the Church
Nothing illustrates this very fact more vividly than the actual history
of the injecting of Easter into the Western Church. Here is the quick,
brief history of it, from the Encyclopaedia Britannica (11th edition, Vol.
VIII, pp. 828-829): "There is no indication of the observance of the Easter
festival in the New Testament, or in the writings of the Apostolic Fathers....
The first Christians [the original true Church] continued to observe the
Jewish [that is, God's] festivals, though in a new spirit, as commemorations
of events which those festivals had foreshadowed. Thus the Passover, with
a new conception added to it, of Christ as the true Paschal Lamb and the
first fruits from the dead, continued to be observed. "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. With the Jewish Christians...the fast ended...on
the 14th day of the moon at evening...without regard to the day of the
week. The Gentile Christians on the other hand [that is, the beginning
of the Roman Church, now substituting pagan for true Christian doctrines]...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. "Generally speaking, the Western Churches [Catholic] kept
Easter on the 1st day of the week, while the Eastern Churches [containing
most of those who remained as part of the true Christian Church] followed
the Jewish rule. [That is, observing Passover on the 14th of the first
sacred month instead of the pagan Easter.] "Polycarp, the disciple of John
the Evangelist, and bishop of Smyrna, visited Rome in 159 [sic] to confer
with Anicetus, the bishop of that see, on the subject, and urged the tradition
which he had received from the apostles of observing the 14th day. Anicetus,
however, declined. About forty years later (197), the question was discussed
in a very different spirit between Victor, bishop of Rome, and Polycrates,
metropolitan of proconsular Asia [the territory of the Churches at Ephesus,
Galatia, Antioch, Philadelphia, and all those mentioned in Revelation 2
and 3 -- the Churches established through the Apostle Paul]. That province
was the only portion of Christendom which still adhered to the Jewish usage.
Victor demanded that all should adopt the usage prevailing at Rome. This
Polycrates firmly refused to agree to, and urged many weighty reasons to
the contrary, whereupon Victor proceeded to excommunicate Polycrates and
the Christians who continued the Eastern usage [that is, who continued
in God's way, as Jesus, Peter, Paul, and all the early true Church had
done]. He was, however, restrained [by other bishops] from actually proceeding
to enforce the decree of excommunication...and the Asiatic churches retained
their usage unmolested. We find the Jewish [true Christian Passover] usage
from time to time reasserting itself after this, but it never prevailed
to any large extent. "A final settlement of the dispute was one among the
other reasons which led Constantine to summon the council at Nicaea in
325. At that time the Syrians and Antiochenes were the solitary champions
of the observance of the 14th day. The decision of the council was unanimous
that Easter was to be kept on Sunday, and on the same Sunday throughout
the world, and that 'none hereafter should follow the blindness of the
Jews.' [That is, in plain language, the Roman Church now decreed that none
should be allowed to follow the ways of Christ -- of the true Christian
Church!] "...The few who afterwards separated themselves from the unity
of the church [Roman Church], and continued to keep the 14th day, were
named 'Quartodecimani,' and the dispute itself is known as the 'Quartodeciman
controversy.'" Thus you see how the politically organized church at Rome
grew to great size and power by adopting popular pagan practices and how
she gradually stamped out the true teachings, doctrines, and practices
of Christ and the true Church, so far as any collective practice is concerned.
The First Historical Records
The early Church of God in New Testament times was taught that Jesus was in the grave three days and three nights -- that He arose at the close of the third day after the crucifixion. The crucifixion occurred upon a Wednesday, April 25, A.D. 31. The Passover was observed annually, on the eve of Christ's death, on Nisan 14 of God's Sacred Calendar. This New Testament practice was followed in the West universally until shortly after the death of the Apostle John. In the Eastern Roman Empire the true practice continued even longer. Here is what happened in the East! A calendar change occurred during the middle of the second century A.D., after which new ideas began to be introduced into the professing Christian world. The true Christians who fled Jerusalem, "continued to use the Jewish cycle [God's method of reckoning the Passover in the Sacred Calendar] till the bishops of Jerusalem who were of the circumcision were succeeded by others who were not of the circumcision [unconverted Gentiles -- and]...they began to invent other cycles" (Bingham's Antiquities of the Christian Church, p. 1152). This same author continues: "We see, at this time [middle of second century] the Jewish calculation [determined by God's Calendar which the Jews had accurately preserved] was generally rejected by the...church, and yet no certain one agreed upon in its room [stead]...."
This is how the Passover -- sometimes called Lord's Supper or Eucharist
-- was gradually rejected.
The Lord's Supper on Saturday!
Remember that up to this point the Churches of God universally understood
that Jesus rose after three days -- on Saturday evening shortly before
sunset. With the rejection of God's Sacred Calendar by many in the professing
Christian world, the many now began to do what seemed right to them. Not
only did they begin to miscalculate the annual occurrence of the Passover,
but in the East they began to observe the Passover weekly on Saturday,
the Sabbath, believe it or not! Here is the proof: For over 200 years this
custom was a universal practice of the Eastern churches. The church historian
Socrates wrote in his Ecclesiastical History, book V, chapter 22: "While
therefore some in Asia Minor observed the day above-mentioned [he means
that some continued to observe the Passover on the 14th of Nisan as the
apostles did] others in the East kept this feast on the Sabbath indeed...."
By "Sabbath" all early writers meant Saturday! So universal was the custom
of observing the "Lord's Supper" on Saturday that he continued to write:
"For although almost all churches throughout the world celebrate the sacred
mysteries on the Sabbath of every week, yet the Christians of Alexandria
and at Rome, on account of some ancient tradition, have ceased to do this."
Did you catch the real significance of this quotation? The Passover was
transformed from an annual memorial in memory of the death of Christ into
a weekly memorial in honor of His resurrection, which occurred on Saturday.
These weekly "Passovers" were called the "sacred mysteries." A part of
those ancient mysteries was later the festival of Easter. But Easter did
not enter suddenly. It entered slowly, under the pretext of being a Christian
custom. Many faithful were still observing the practices of the original
true Church. Others began to hold the "sacred mysteries" every Saturday
to honor, as they thought, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But how were
the false teachers going to alter the knowledge that Jesus was three days
and three nights in the tomb?
"Good Friday-Easter Sunday" Tradition
Let's notice! From the Syriac Didascalia, composed shortly before the
time of Constantine, we have a record of what happened in those early days.
False teachers began to interpret the three days and three nights in the
following clever fashion: They claimed Jesus suffered on the cross, supposedly
on Friday, for about six hours. The daylight hours from nine in the morning
to noon they counted as one day. The hours from noon to three o'clock --
when the land was darkened -- they reckoned as the first night. Then the
time from three o'clock to sunset was reckoned as the second day. Friday
night to Saturday morning became the second night; the daylight of Saturday,
the third day; and Saturday night to Sunday morning, the third night. A
very clever argument -- and it deceived a great many people! Those false
ministers twisted the truth that Jesus was in the grave three days and
three nights. For the first time the idea of a Sunday resurrection was
injected into the churches. Now observe what happened.
Easter Sunday Begins Earlier at Rome
In commenting on those who did not observe the Passover in accordance
with the practice of the apostles, Irenaeus, who lived toward the close
of the second century, wrote to Bishop Victor of Rome, "We mean Anicetus,
and Pius, and Hyginus, and Telesphorus, and Xystus. They neither observed
it [the true Passover on the 14th of Nisan] nor did they permit those after
them to do so"(Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, Vol. I, p. 243). Who were
these men? -- bishops of the church at Rome! Here is the first record,
by a Catholic, of the fact that the Roman bishops no longer observed the
Passover at the correct God given time, but on a Sunday! It was Bishop
Xystus (his name is also spelled Sixtus) who was the first recorded individual
to prevent the proper observance of the Passover, and to celebrate the
sacred mysteries annually on a Sunday. Irenaeus speaks further of him,
declaring that his doctrine was in direct "opposition" to the practice
of the remainder of the churches. Bishop Sixtus was living at the beginning
of the second century, just after the Apostle John died. Notice, too, that
Easter Sunday did not begin with Peter or Paul in the 60's A.D., but with
Sixtus in the second century! Here you have the astounding origin of Easter
Sunday in the Western churches. Together with this practice, the "sacred
mysteries" were also observed every Sunday!
The Romans Divided
The introduction of this custom naturally divided the Christians at
Rome. The Catholic historian Abbe Duchesne wrote: "There were many Christians
of Asia in Rome at that time [remember that the Church of God at Rome was
founded by those who came from Asia Minor where Paul preached] and the
very early Popes, Xystus and Telesphorus, saw them every year keep their
Pasch [the true Passover] the same day as did the Jews. They maintained
that was correct. It was allowed to pass...though the rest of Rome observed
a different use" (The Early History of the Church, Vol. I, p. 210). These
are startling facts, but they are true! It is time we knew about them!
Irenaeus wrote even more regarding the observance of Easter at Rome and
elsewhere as follows: "But Polycarp also was not only instructed by the
apostles, and acquainted with many that had seen Christ, but was also appointed
by apostles in Asia, bishop of the Church of Smyrna.... He also was in
Rome in the time of Anicetus [bishop of Rome, A.D. 155-166] and caused
many to turn away from the...heretics to the Church of God, proclaiming
that he had received from the apostles this one and sole truth..." While
at Rome, Polycarp discussed the matter of Easter with the Roman bishop.
Irenaeus continued: "For neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp not to
observe it [the Passover] because he had always observed it with John the
disciple of our Lord, and the rest of the apostles, with whom he associated;
and neither did Polycarp persuade Anicetus to observe it, who said that
he was bound to follow the customs of the presbyters before him" (Eusebius'
Ecclesiastical History, book V, chapter 24, quoted in Nicene and Post Nicene
Fathers, Vol. 1, p. 244).
Shortly after Polycarp left, there appeared an amazing letter -- said
by many scholars to have been a deliberate forgery. This letter states:
"Pope Pius, who lived about 147, had made a decree, That the annual solemnity
of the Pasch [Pasch is the Greek word for Passover] should be kept on the
Lord's day [Sunday] and in confirmation of this he pretended, that Hermes
[Hermas], his brother, who was then an eminent teacher among them, had
received instruction from an angel, who commanded that all men should keep
the Pasch on the Lord's day" (Joseph Bingham, Antiquities of the Christian
Church, pp. 1148-1149). Of this same hoax, we read in Apostolical Fathers,
by James Donaldson, page 324: "One of the letters forged in the name of
Pius, where one Hermas [Hermes] is mentioned as the author; and it is stated
that in his book a commandment was given through an angel to observe the
Passover on a Sunday." If this letter was a deliberate forgery, it was
invented after Polycarp's time in an effort to lend weight to the custom
of Anicetus, bishop of Rome, who maintained the Sunday observance of the
Eucharist or Passover. If it was not a forgery, then Pius himself was the
author of this deceptive letter. (Pius died just prior to the visit of
Polycarp to Rome.)
Constantine -- the Man of Power
Constantine then convoked the first general council of the Christian
professing world. The Council of Nicaea decided, under his authority, that
Easter must be celebrated on Sunday and that the Passover must be forbidden!
Without regard to these decisions, many continued faithful. For this reason
Constantine issued an edict declaring: "We have directed, accordingly,
that you be deprived of all houses in which you are accustomed to hold
your assemblies...public or private" (Life of Constantine, book III).
Easter Still Observed on Different Sundays
Though everyone was now forced to observe Easter or flee the urban areas
of the Roman Empire, the churches were still divided over the exact Sunday
for Easter. Here is how confusing matters became: "But notwithstanding
any endeavors that could be used then, or afterwards, there remained great
differences in the church about it for many ages. For the churches of Great
Britain and Ireland did not accord with the Roman church in keeping Easter
on the same Sunday, till about the year 800. Nor was the Roman way fully
received in France, till it was settled there by the authority of Charles
the Great..." (Bingham's Antiquities of the Christian Church, p. 1151).
These are startling facts -- but they ought to make you wake up to the
truth! It is high time we learned exactly what has happened to the Gospel
of Jesus Christ and to the practices of the New Testament Church of God
these past 1900 years!
True Christians Kept Passover
The New Testament reveals that Jesus, the apostles, and the New Testament
Church, both Jewish- and Gentile-born, observed God's Sabbaths, and God's
Festivals -- weekly and annually! Take your Bible and carefully read Acts
2:1; 12:3-4 (remember the word "Easter" here is a mistranslation in the
King James Version -- originally inspired "Passover," and so corrected
in the Revised Standard Version); Acts 18:21; 20:6, 16; I Corinthians 16:8.
Eusebius, historian of the early centuries of the Church, speaks of the
true Christians observing Passover on the 14th of Nisan, first month of
the Sacred Calendar. "A question of no small importance arose at that time.
For the parishes 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 be observed as the feast of the Savior's pass over...the
bishops of Asia, led by Polycrates, decided to hold to the old custom handed
down to them. He himself, in a letter which he addressed to Victor and
the church of Rome, set forth in the following words the tradition which
had come down to him: "'We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking
away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise
again on the day of the Lord's coming, when he shall come with glory from
heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one
of the twelve apostles...and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and
a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord...and Polycarp in Smyrna,
who was a bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, bishop and martyr from Eumenia...the
bishop and martyr Sagaris...the blessed Papirius, or Melito....All these
observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the Gospel, deviating
in no respect, but following the rule of faith"' (Ecclesiastical History,
book V, chapters XXIII and XXIV). But as the false, paganized church grew
in size and political power, decrees were passed in the fourth century
A.D. imposing the death sentence upon Christians found keeping God's Sabbath,
or God's Festivals. Finally, in order to keep the true way of God, many
Christians (composing the true Church) fled for their lives. But another
large portion of the true Church of God, failing to flee, yet remaining
true to God's truth, paid with their lives in martyrdom (Rev. 2:13; 6:9;
13-15; 17:6; 18:24). They loved obedience to God more than their lives!
Do you? But through all generations, through every century, though persecuted,
scattered, unrecognized by the world, many true Christians have kept alive
the true Church of God -- the Church composed of those who have the Holy
Spirit of God.
What God Did Command
The "communion," often called the "Lord's Supper," is actually the Passover
-- as the ordinance should more properly be called. On observing the Passover,
as on every practice, Jude exhorts "that ye should contend earnestly for
the faith which was once delivered to the saints." Now that we know the
pagan origin of the Easter celebration, let's clear away the web of error
that covers the truth about keeping the Passover, the memorial of Christ's
death. Let's examine the way Jesus observed this ordinance, because we
can't be wrong if we follow His example. In Luke 22:14-20, we read, "And
when the hour was come, he [Jesus] sat down.... And he took bread, and
gave thanks, and broke it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body
which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the
cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which
is shed for you." Notice, it was "when the hour was come," that Jesus introduced
the unleavened bread and the wine. There was a definite time a definite
hour when He held this ordinance as an example for us. Notice, too, He
commanded them to observe it "This do"! And why? "In remembrance of me,"
said Jesus. He instituted this New Testament way of keeping the Passover,
on that tragic night, the very eve of His death. In Matthew's account,
the Bible shows that this ordinance was at the very time of the Passover,
"as they were eating" (Matt. 26:2, 26). Jesus knew that His time had come.
He was our passover, sacrificed for us (I Cor. 5:7). The Passover had always
been held on the eve of the 14th of God's first month, according to the
Sacred or Jewish Calendar. It was the night of the final and last Passover
supper that Jesus introduced these New Testament emblems the unleavened
bread and the wine in place of the lamb that was always slain annually.
For a full explanation of the original Passover as God instituted it, write
immediately for our free booklet Pagan Holidays or God's Holy Days -- Which?
Remember Jesus commanded: "This do in remembrance of me." Why? Because
the Passover was commanded "forever." The Passover was to be observed annually,
along with the Days of Unleavened Bread. "Thou shalt therefore keep this
ordinance in his season year to year" (Ex. 13:10). Jesus set us an example
(I Peter 2:21), observing this ordinance at the same time once a year (Luke
2:42). Suppose the Israelites in Egypt had observed this ordinance at some
other time than that set by God? They would not have been saved when the
death angel passed by that night! God does things on time. He has given
us an exact time for this ordinance. Jesus instituted the New Testament
symbols "when the hour was come."
The Ordinance of Humility
In giving us their accounts, Matthew, Mark and Luke describe the taking
of unleavened bread and wine. But John relates another part of this ordinance.
In the 13th chapter of John we notice that after the Passover supper was
ended (verse 2), Jesus took a towel (verse 4)and began to wash His disciples'
feet (verse 5). So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments,
and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to
you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then,
your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one
another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I
have done to you" (John 13:12-15). If any of you are wondering if this
ordinance of humility is a command to you, then turn to Matthew 28:19,
20. Here Jesus said to these same disciples: "Go ye therefore, and teach
all nations, baptizing them...teaching them to observe all things whatsoever
I have commanded YOU." So they were to teach us to observe all things whatsoever
Jesus commanded them!
Kept Once a Year in the Apostolic Church
In I Corinthians 5:7, 8, Paul tells the Corinthians: Christ our passover
is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven...but
with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." And in the 11th chapter
he gives the directions regarding this ordinance. Some misunderstand verse
26 which says: "As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup," by
interpreting it take it as often as you wish." But it does not say that!
It says "as often" as you observe it, "ye do show the Lord's death till
he come." Even Jesus commanded, "This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in
remembrance of me" (verse 25). We do it in remembrance of the Lord's death
-- a memorial of His death. As you know, memorials are celebrated annually,
once a year, on the anniversary of the events commemorated. So we observe
the memorial of Christ's death annually. And just as often as each year
comes around, we are to "show the Lord's death till he come," by keeping
this memorial. Christ instituted this ordinance on the eve of His death.
It was the 14th of Abib, by God's Sacred Calendar, in the very beginning
of the day. God starts days at sunset, not midnight. So, later that same
day, after Jesus had gone out to Gethsemane, Judas Iscariot led the crowd
to seize Jesus. Then He was crucified later that same day, in the daylight
part of this same 14th of the month Abib. By following the example of Jesus
in observing this sacred ordinance at the same time He did -- the very
same time the Passover was forever commanded to be observed -- we continue
to remember His death, annually, on the eve of the crucifixion. Some always
question the meaning of Paul in verses 27-29 in I Corinthians 11. The apostle
is not speaking about a Christian being worthy or unworthy to take it.
It is speaking of the manner in which it is done. We take it unworthily
if we take it wrongly, in the wrong manner. Once we learn the truth about
its observance, and yet take it at any other time than when God says, then
we take it unworthily. We take it unworthily if we do not accept the body
and blood of Christ. So let's not take this most sacred ordinance to our
condemnation, but take it worthily instead!
"Easter" a Mistranslation
Following the example of Jesus and the apostles, the early Church observed
the Passover, and the Days of Unleavened Bread which immediately followed.
Notice Acts 12:3. The Holy Spirit of God inspired these words: Then were
the days of unleavened bread." But in the next verse we read of "Easter."
We have already seen that "Easter" was injected into the Church years after
the time of Christ. Again, this word Easter" is a mistranslation. The original
Greek word is pascha, meaning Passover. In every other place, exactly the
same word is used in the original and always rendered Passover. Many other
translations faithfully render this verse in Acts as "intending after the
Passover to bring him forth to the people." So this verse, instead of mentioning
Easter, really proves that the Church, ten years after the death of Christ,
was still observing Passover.
What Does "Break Bread" Mean?
There are some denominations that read Acts 20:7 as a proof that the
"Lord's Supper" should be taken each Sunday morning! First notice that
this was after the Days of Unleavened Bread (verse 6). Paul was preaching
a farewell meeting, not on Sunday morning, but on Saturday night. It was
after midnight (verse 7), that they broke bread because they were hungry.
When they "had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till
break of day," Paul departed. So this was just an ordinary meal! The same
expression "break bread" is found in Acts 27:34, 35. "Wherefore I pray
you to take some meat...he took bread...and when he had broken it, he began
to eat." Also Acts 2:46: "And breaking bread from house to house, did eat
their meat with gladness." This could not possibly have been the "Lord's
Supper" or, more properly, Passover, because Paul says that if we take
it to satisfy our hunger we take it to our condemnation (I Cor. 11:34).
In that day, everyone "broke bread" at ordinary meals, because they did
not have the kind of bread that we slice. Jesus broke bread because it
was at the Passover supper, while eating a meal. We need to return to the
faith once delivered. Let us humbly and obediently observe this sacred
ordinance as we are commanded, at the scriptural time, after sunset, the
14th of Abib according to the Sacred Calendar. If you haven't as yet written
about the observance of this ordinance, write us immediately for our booklet
How Often Should We Partake of the Lord's Supper?
Christians Kept the Passover
Jesus Christ kept the Passover. So did the Apostle John. And so did
some Christians in Scotland even until the 7th century A.D. This information
comes from no less an ecclesiastical authority than the church historian
Bede. His Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation would astound many
who have assumed that Christ and the early apostles all kept Easter. He
writes that "John, following the customs of the Law, used to begin the
Feast of Easter [actually the Passover] on the evening of the fourteenth
day of the first month, whether it fell on the Sabbath or on any other
day" (III, 25). The Apostle John was the author of five books of the New
Testament and the "disciple whom Jesus loved." Yet he kept the Passover
on the 14th day of the first month (Nisan) just as God commanded in the
time of Moses. That is the plain statement of this early Catholic theologian!
But where did John's custom come from? From the very example of Jesus Christ!
"Nor did our Lord, the Author and Giver of the Gospel, eat the old Passover
or institute the Sacrament of the New Testament to be celebrated by the
Church in memory of His Passion on...[any other day], but on the fourteenth"
(Eccl. History, III, 25). Bede thus reiterates what the Bible itself plainly
tells us -- that Christ partook of the old Passover and then substituted
the New Testament symbols of the bread and wine on the 14th of the first
month. The custom of keeping the New Testament Passover, after the example
of Christ and John, persisted among isolated groups for centuries. Bede
tells us that some faithful were still keeping it in Scotland in the 7th
century! (II, 19.)