PASSOVER AND THE EASTER TRADITIONS

PASSOVER AND THE EASTER TRADITIONS

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The question of whether Christians should observe Passover, or continue with the well-established tradition of Easter, is one that provokes much reaction amongst believers.

To answer this question we must always begin by examining the word of God.   For God’s ways are higher than man’s. Nowhere in the bible will you find the word Easter. The word Easter derives from Ishtar, the moon goddess from ancient Assyria, and is the root of the Germanic name Eostre, a pagan fertility goddess of the Saxon people of northern Europe. Eostre is also the root of the word estrogen, or oestrogen, the primary female sex hormone

Ishtar/Eostre’s fertility symbols were eggs and rabbits. The ancient Assyrian new-year celebrations, called Akitu, culminated with the festival of Ishtar, which was the religious celebration of the fertility and pregnancy of the mother goddess as well as the resurrection of her son/husband, Tammuz, ‘the incarnated son of god’, who coincidentally was born on the 25th December!

These pagan fertility symbols have become widely accepted in western culture, yet God makes it abundantly clear that we are not to do as the pagans do. Even the origins of the hot cross bun are found in a repeating form of worship, dating back to the days of Ishtar, who was known as the ‘queen of heaven,’ a name later given to Mary the mother of Jesus. Pagans would bake cakes to offer to ‘the queen of heaven’ (just as the idolatrous Israelites did – Jer 7:18) on the Friday before the Easter festival. Sound familiar?

“Take heed to yourself you are not ensnared to follow after them (the pagans) after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘how did these nations serve their gods, I will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the Lord in that way.”  Deuteronomy 12:30-31

Therefore, hard as it may be to accept, the adoption of Easter and its pagan symbolism, including sunrise rituals and traditions, into the church of God, is actually an abomination. It may have been established practice for centuries to celebrate Easter as we do, however, our God states unambiguously, we must not worship Him as the pagans worship their gods.  We are not even to mention the name of their gods:

“make no mention of the name of their gods, nor let it be heard from your mouth!” 

Exodus 23:13

“you shall not make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause anyone to swear by them; you shall not serve them nor bow down to them, but you shall hold fast to the Lord your God”

Joshua 23:7

Furthermore:

“you shall destroy all their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images, for you shall worship no other god for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God!”

Exodus 34:13

This is a serious matter. Last year we wrote on this subject and were criticised heavily by church leaders who stated if they abandoned Easter for Passover they’d lose many of their flock. Our response is simple; who do we serve – man or God?

At Easter-time the church traditionally celebrates the death and resurrection of the Passover Lamb of God – Jesus Christ. But ask yourself a question: how do you think Jesus, who Himself celebrated Passover, feels when His church names His great sacrificial act of love, after a pagan goddess? Worse, that church traditions actually mimic the festival which commemorates the death and resurrection of Ishtar’s son/husband, the Assyrian sun god, Tammuz? Can you see how paganism has been blended with truth? Yet, we are called to come out and be ye separate, to come out of her lest we share in her judgments. (Rev 18:4 & Jer 51:45)

By contrast, the Passover is well documented throughout the scriptures from the very first Passover, which took place the night the Israelites left Egypt. The Israelites were told clearly to keep the Passover forever in memory of what the Lord did. The Passover (Pesach in Hebrew = “to pass over”) incorporates the retelling of the story of Exodus and God’s deliverance from bondage in Egypt.

So this day shall be to you as a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generation. You shall keep it as a feast by everlasting ordinance.”

Exodus 12:14

The Israelites were instructed to mark their homes with the blood of a lamb, symbolic of the eventual shedding of the blood of The Lamb, whose sacrifice bought us out of slavery from the kingdom of darkness. Can there be any greater insult to our Lord and King than to take what He has done and taint it with paganism? What does Christ have to do with Belial? What does the believer have to do with the unbeliever?

So what about the Christian? As a gentile should he observe Passover, or is he free to celebrate the Easter tradition as created by man.   What does God say?

Romans chapter 11 tells us that the Gentile believer in Jesus is grafted into Israel. We become part of the spiritual commonwealth of Israel. The root (Jesus) feeds us. Jesus is our Lord and Saviour, He is our role model, and significantly He came to earth and was born, lived and died a Jew, as indeed were Paul and the other Apostles. He also said “if you love Me, obey Me”. Every year he went up to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Should not we, in our homes and lands?

“A foreigner residing among you is also to celebrate the LORD’s Passover in accordance with its rules and regulations. You must have the same regulations for both the foreigner and the native-born.”

Numbers 9:14

 Some argue that the Passover should only be observed by those circumcised in the flesh (i.e. Jews) but the bible is clear that circumcision in the flesh alone does not suffice:

“For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.”

Romans 2:28-29

Those who still argue that Passover is only for the Jews should keep in mind the words of Paul, that both Jew and Gentile are one in Christ. That we, who are circumcised in the heart, are Jews inwardly as shown above.

Therefore if we are born again, spirit filled disciples of Jesus, circumcised in the heart, then inwardly we are Jews and part of the spiritual commonwealth of Israel in accordance with Romans 11.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.”

Galatians 3:28-29

If we are one in Christ and Abraham’s descendants then why are we separated? Why does enmity still exist in some parts of the church? Why do we separate ourselves and divide the precepts and prescribed ordinances of God, as if some apply only to Jews and others to us? It’s illogical and conflicts with what scripture says, for God does not show partiality (Romans 2:11).

So we encourage you to prayerfully consider replacing Easter, a pagan tradition, and the less obvious Resurrection Sunday, with Passover, as God requires of you as an everlasting ordinance.[i]  If what we have written troubles you please pray and seek His will. In your own church communities you may well experience resistance or even hostility to such change, but nonetheless, ‘blessed are those who are persecuted for My names sake” said Jesus. At the very least, consider observing it in private in your own home with like-minded friends, for man may judge by outward appearance but God judges by the heart, His eyes roam everywhere observing the ways of men. Be obedient out of love for Him and be blessed.

“If you love Me obey Me”

John 14:15

The Emmaus Group

[i] Exodus 12:14

15 Comments

  1. I say to all those who say we do not need to celebrate Passover: you are in direct conflict with the words of Yeshua:

    “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-19)

  2. I’ll make one more commentif I may! Its not about judging, so I’m surprised this slight red herring arises! If people insist on celebrating what is in fact a pagan ‘feast’ (Easter, from which we get our modern word estrogen, incidentally) then that must be between them and Jesus. What is being offrered here is the chance to mark passover in a way that is honnouring to Jesus and to the gospel message. After all, Passover is the gospel message, for heaven’s sake! Incidentally here is something I explored on Passover for those who want to dig into the re-Jesus element.

    http://www.phileoyeshua.com/hebraic_church.htm Just scroll down to Passover outline and dip in for the re-Jesus element. You’ll need Powerpoint for this.

    I do however agree with one comment of Mr Johnston that elements of the modern passover meal are adopted by some Christians who do not appreciate that Passover (Seder) just like Easter, has elements that are not commanded and accordingly subtract from the simplicity and Jesus-focus of the original meal. If we celebrate passover then great! But let’s mark it as Jesus marked it, not in the Rabbinic tradition.

  3. Dear Emmaus Group
    You are just going far to far. Having a different opinion about the weight of the original source of a “tradition” of either “Easter” or “Passover” and elevating it to something the Lord hates is not fair and it is divisive. Please reconsider.

  4. What’s notable about the comments disputing this article is the lack of recognition of the pagan roots identified in the first half. It seems easier to argue theology than face the harsh reality that the roots of the Easter traditions are pagan, and that the church should have nothing to do with it. The church today is at risk of doing as the Nicolaitans did, of whom Jesus said He “hates their deeds and doctrines” (Rev 2:15). Nicolaus of Antioch taught a doctrine that urged believers to make compromise with the society within which they found themselves. It’s believed he taught Christians to remain members of the pagan groups, and that they might do so without disloyalty to their faith in Christ….as ever, a little bit of yeast affects a whole batch of dough.

  5. Great contribution and very welcome but as your title states it is about traditions and we simply should not judge those who keep one date rather than another to simply and genuinely remember the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The associations that have been dug out are nowhere in anyone’s thinking. The one’s that do matter are the Easter Bunny and the churches do a great job in seeking to get the gospel across in the face of the secularisation of anything with gospel roots. These postings divide over non-essentials, as clearly defined in the New Testament, rather than unite.

  6. I always thought the clue to whether we repeat the Passover was in the way Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples changing the wording and meaning totally? I have sat through many Passover celebrations over the years & the Jewish symbolism and lack of change of wording is not something that appeals to me nor is it true to the last supper nor does it help me reflect on the finished work of Christ. I have been to very few Passover celebrations that acknowledge how Jesus changed the focus of the meal or enablle me to focus on the ‘once for all’ aspect of Jesus death and little or no reflection on His resurrection, though the final cup promising to meet next year in the New Jerusalem does bring a small sense of the 2nd coming. the Passover is a celebration of Gods deliverance to the Jews that foreshadows Gods deliverance for all through the Paschal Lamb.
    While I have enjoyed the knowledge and understanding that comes from the Passover meal I feel little personal attraction or scriptural warranty for continuing to celebrate a ceremony that had been replaced!

    Having said all that though the author quotes Galatians, totally out of context, and ironically Romans 2:28-29 they seem to have missed the whole message of Pauls strongest worded letter to any of the Churches which is, don’t add anything to the gospel. Not Passover for all or even Easter for all. Surely the motivation of the heart is what counts and if there is any contention we should devote the principle of Romans 14 rather than trying to convince each other to adopt particular practices?

    I could say much more as this is predominantly an emotional rather exegeted argument culminating in the suggestion that if you adopt the ‘Passover ‘ and people disagree with you then you are being persecuted and should claim ‘blessed are the persecuted’ for your comfort? Persecuted really!!!! However my intention is not to dissect an article but more to thank God for his grace and mercy in bringing his people out of slavery into his promised land but to recognise if the Passover was all there was we would be a very sorry people today. Remembering the sacrifice of Jesus and his resurrection is the model of the new covenant and I would personally rather remember & celebrate the new covenant than the shadow of it in the old covenant and believe it to be more in keeping with NT scripture as outlined clearly in the letter to Hebrews.
    Do I think Jesus is upset because we call it Easter – no not all! Do I believe he is thrilled we remember him in Easter services and in Passover meals – absolutely.
    Do I believe he is grieved we spend so much time criticising others who don’t celebrate as we do – totally. No wonder heaven still shouts ‘Church for the worlds sake grow up’.

  7. Working out which elements of Law should be considered as important and which are no longer relevant because of changed circumstances is not easy. But Steve Maltz has made a biblically astute assessment in his popular theology book “God s Tapestry” which explores some of these questions. Link here:

    http://www.sppublishing.com/gods-tapestry-69-p.asp

    Blessings all,

  8. Thankyou for this when i became a christian i lacked so much but yhis last year the Lord has really spoke to me about this i will be acknowledging the passover when i got baptised i chose easter sunday thinking i was gloryfying CHRIST . Which it did and it does as HE KNOWS MY HEART 🙂 but WOW if i knew what i KNOW i wouldnt off have a blessed passover full off Yeshua .. blessings

  9. With respect to Mike, I do not think that Acts 15 is relevant. Acts 15 is about circumcision (primarily) and adoption of the Mosaic Law (secondarily). We are not required to adopt Law to be a disciple of Jesus – but nor are we to be antinomian (anti-Law). As believers we merely understand and respect the Law – we are not obligated to maintain its detailed requirements. And Emmaus is not advocating this! To consign “Easter” to history and to adopt Passover as a correct expression of what the crucifixion and resurrection is REALLY all about is surely a wise and profound thing? Choosing Passover is not to come under Law! Choosing “Easter” is somewhat odd now that we are beginning to understand the full beauty of Passover. Especially since we know of “Easter’s” thoroughly pagan antecedents.

    Is it in any way right or proper that the shed blood of the lamb is “celebrated” via a pagan fertility rite?!

  10. I’m not sure anyone is talking about compulsion in this. The point being made (surely?) is that “Easter” has gross pagan antecedents. Since Passover IS ALL ABOUT JESUS then why on earth would we not mark Passover? “Easter does not REALLY speak about Jesus. It speaks about whatever its adherents want it to mean – for some it means the resurrection, but for others it means fertility and bunnies. Confusion all around!! There is just no confusion about Passover. Ince churches are optionally moving away from revedaled Christianity, in any case, there are bound to be significant changes in praxis in the future – and I would suggest that a refocus around Passover is one such vedry likely development for those who want to be diciples of the Lord Jesus.

    Many are now coming to the conclusion that we should mark Passover which, unlike “Easter” can be precisely dated each year (“Easter” keeps changing its date). Why on Earth would we NOT mark Passover? That was the day on which the judgement and penalty for the sins of the penitent “pass-over” the believer (who is marked with the blood of Jesus) and instead are laid to Jesus’ account – He the Savior who has given His physical life in exchange for our eternal lives.

    There is no doubt that in the next 5 years increasing numbers of Believers will rejoice as they better understand the wonderful Jesus-centred truth of Passover.

  11. Thank you for such an accurate teaching. Christians need to know the truth of the scriptures. How can we really get to know Jesus when we are being lied to even in Sunday school.

  12. Respectfully, this exegesis is seriously flawed. It needs to take into account the verdict of the Council of Jerusalem recorded in Acts 15, which addresses whether or not circumcision applies to Gentile Christians as well as their relationship to the “Law of Moses” (Acts 15v5). Following the summing up of the Apostle James, Jesus half brother and leader of the Jewish Christians at Jerusalem, the letter makes clear what the Council’s verdict is.

  13. These two awkward questions are ones of which most church-attending Christians remain unaware ………

    Are we missing a wonderful opportunity to better appreciate God’s Salvation purposes, as they are prefigured throughout the Scriptures?
    Is the institutional church’s ecclesiastical rhythm – comprised of its numerous “feasts” and “holy days” – one that God has authorised, or does it stand in such a way as to obscure God’s Salvation purposes?

  14. Thank you for raising this important question.

    There are two awkward questions that switched-on Christians are beginning to ask:
    (1) Is it in any way right or justifiable that the death and resurrection of Jesus is marked by the use of a pagan feast dedicated to a fertility goddess named Ēostre (from which we get our word “Easter”)?
    (2) Does the traditional ecclesiastical year serve God’s purposes adequately – or does it actually obscure God’s purposes?
    Ēostre is the root from which we get our modern word oestrogen (or estrogen) – the hormones associated with the menstrual-reproductive cycle

  15. Thank you so much,Emmaus Group, for this excellent article;once more you have simply and clearly explained the truth of this wonderful Feast of Passover in contrast to the pagan peactices which have polluted the church over the centuries.
    God bless you for saying it as it is – it’s time for all of God’s people to walk in the fear of the Lord.

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