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Topic: Easter

Why Do We Call it Easter?

by Darrel Cline

Easter. Where did this name for the celebration of Jesus' resurrection come from? Well, that depends upon whose books you read. Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary says the word came from a prehistoric name of a pagan spring festival. Philip Schaff, in a footnote in Vol. 2, chapter 5, of his History of the Christian Church says that the name came from the ancient German celebration of Ostara, "the old German divinity of the rising, health-bringing light." Alexander Hislop, in his The Two Babylons, made the claim that the name came from Ishtar, an Assyrian goddess who was worshiped as "the Queen of Heaven". So, the name has a varied history, depending upon which rabbit trail you chase. One thing everyone is agreed upon: it isn't Christian.

So why do we use it?

Well we use it because we grew up in 20th Century America where church traditions that had been established hundreds of years before were being practiced. OK, so why did those who established the traditions use it? For two reasons: one was the antagonism in the early centuries that the so-called church had for Jews (they didn't want to call the Church's festivals by names that would link them to Jewish feasts); the other one was that the Church had political ambitions arising from its triumphalistic amillennarian theology (I probably ought to get at least a buck and a half for those words!).

Let me explain.

There was an enormous amount of outright hatred between Jews and 'Christians' in the early centuries after the resurrection of Christ. This should not have been, at least on the part of Christians, because Jesus taught His followers to love their enemies. That's why I put the word in quotes above--because those who love to call themselves by His name, but do not do what He commanded, are false disciples. That's still true today. There is an enormous number of people who, for some reason, want to call themselves Christians, but do not want to love their enemies. It was this hatred that prompted the use of Easter as the name of the celebration of the Lord of Love's resurrection. A sad anomaly isn't it?

Then, there was the triumphalistic amillennarian theology. A large group of leading theologians in the early centuries of the history of Christianity believed that it was the destiny of the Church to finally achieve rule over this world without the presence of Jesus, the King. So, in harmony with this belief, they set out to get a choke-hold on political power. In order to do that, you have to have lots and lots of warm bodies who give at least lip service to belonging to your organization. So, the 'Church' decided to name its most significant celebration after one of the most significant pagan celebrations--to make it easier to attract the pagans and get them in the fold. Forget doctrine, just get the political clout you need! A rather sad commentary on Easter isn't it?

However, it doesn't erase the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead and we can still worship Him for loving us. What about you, will you worship Him this Easter?

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This is article #026.
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