It is with great fear and trepidation that I begin this article as I am keenly aware of the strong emotional feelings on each side. I am reminded of the Biblical exhortation, “continue to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil 2:12) My goal, therefore, will be to present a quick survey of the facts and leave the “working out” to each of you. I will love you regardless of your decision. 🙂
In Part 1 of Easter Wars, I touched on the topic of WHEN the Resurrection of Jesus is celebrated and why. If you haven’t read it yet, check it out here. Today we will look at WHAT is celebrated.
Despite the obscurity of some historical information and the flurry of opinions that can be found on the Internet and elsewhere, there are some reasonably reliable facts discoverable from a perusal of historical writings.
The first and most obvious question about this annual celebration is the name. There are no linguistic gymnastics that provide a logical path from the Jewish, Latin or Greek words for Passover to our modern name, Easter. There is, however, a direct route from the names of ancient fertility goddesses, especially Astarte from Greece, Ishtar from Assyria and Eostre from Germanic tradition.
These ancient goddesses of fertility and spring also provide clues into other aspects that are often celebrated in our society. The egg, for example, has several significant meanings in ancient cultures. Ishtar supposedly came to earth in an egg and the Egyptians placed eggs in tombs as a pagan symbol of resurrection.
The bunny is an obvious choice for people obsessed with fertility. It is known for its breeding proclivities, and can actually conceive a second litter while pregnant with one. Fertility is a common theme in pagan worship and rituals. Devotees not only asked the idols to give them many children of their own but also prayed for fertile livestock and crops.
Over the years, many people have asked for my personal thoughts on Easter. I am saddened when I consider that the most important celebration on the Christian calendar is often a reminder of how much we have lost our first love. Jesus is often no longer at the center – as is too frequently true in nearly every aspect of life. Personally, I don’t like the name Easter. I believe it is at it’s very core idolatrous. I admit, that it is hard to avoid – considering its proliferation throughout our society. I try to remember to say, Happy Resurrection Day! Beyond that, I encourage each Christian to ask themselves a simple question. If we knew Jesus were coming to our house this year, how would we celebrate the day differently?