Easter Sunday and the Pagan Beliefs

church bunnies

Today, April 1, 2018, is the first Sunday of the month and Easter Sunday. In Matthew 28:6 NKJV says “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” This is where the true meaning of Easter ha to be. Or has it?

Let us look at the reasons why we call Easter Sunday Easter and not Resurrection Sunday.

Eostre

[1] It is often assumed that the name Easter comes from a pagan figure called Eastre (or Eostre) who was celebrated as the goddess of spring by the Saxons of Northern Europe. [2] She was associated with spring and fertility, and celebrated around the vernal equinox. [3] The only mention of Eastre comes from a passing reference in the writings of the Venerable Bede, an eighth-century monk and historian. Bede wrote,

“Eosturmononath has a name which is now translated as ‘Paschal month,’ and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honor feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate the Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance” (De Temporum Ratione).

And that’s it. Eostre is not mentioned in any other ancient writing; we have found no shrines, no altars, nothing to document the worship of Eastre. It is possible that Bede simply extrapolated the name of the goddess from the name of the month. And who was the Venerable Bede? [4] Bede (673–735) was a Catholic monk in England; he is known as the Father of English History and was one of the most learned men in Europe at the time. Bede’s tomb in Durham Cathedral contains an inscription giving him the title “Venerable,” meaning that some officials in the Roman Catholic Church had found his person and life to be worthy of veneration. Bede was made a saint and declared a doctor of the church in 1899.

Inanna (Ishtar)

[5] One theory that has been put forward is that the Easter story of crucifixion and resurrection is symbolic of rebirth and renewal and retells the cycle of the seasons, the death and return of the sun.

According to some scholars, such as Dr. Tony Nugent, teacher of Theology and Religious Studies at Seattle University, and Presbyterian minister, the Easter story comes from the Sumerian legend of Damuzi (Tammuz) and his wife Inanna (Ishtar), an epic myth called “The Descent of Inanna” found inscribed on cuneiform clay tablets dating back to 2100 BC. When Tammuz dies, Ishtar is grief–stricken and follows him to the underworld. In the underworld, she enters through seven gates, and her worldly attire is removed. “Naked and bowed low” she is judged, killed, and then hung on display. In her absence, the earth loses its fertility, crops cease to grow and animals stop reproducing. Unless something is done, all life on earth will end. Dr Nugent is quick to point out that drawing parallels between the story of Jesus and the epic of Inanna “doesn’t necessarily mean that there wasn’t a real person, Jesus, who was crucified, but rather that, if there was, the story about it is structured and embellished in accordance with a pattern that was very ancient and widespread.”

The Sumerian goddess Inanna is known outside of Mesopotamia by her Babylonian name, “Ishtar”. In ancient Canaan Ishtar is known as Astarte, and her counterparts in the Greek and Roman pantheons are known as Aphrodite and Venus. In the 4th Century, when Christians identified the exact site in Jerusalem where the empty tomb of Jesus had been located, they selected the spot where a temple of Aphrodite (Astarte/Ishtar/Inanna) stood. The temple was torn down and the So Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built, the holiest church in the Christian world.

Dr Nugent points out that the story of Inanna and Damuzi is just one of a number of accounts of dying and rising gods that represent the cycle of the seasons and the stars. For example, the resurrection of Egyptian Horus; the story of Mithras, who was worshipped at Springtime; and the tale of Dionysus, resurrected by his grandmother. Among these stories are prevailing themes of fertility, conception, renewal, descent into darkness, and the triumph of light over darkness or good over evil.

Easter Bunny and Easter Eggs

[6] The Easter Bunny comes from these pagan rites of spring as well, but more from pagan Germany than pagan Britain. Eighteenth-century German settlers brought “Oschter Haws” (never knew he had a name, did you?) to America, where Pennsylvania Dutch settlers prepared nests for him in the garden or barn. On Easter Eve, the rabbit laid his colored eggs in the nests in payment. In Germany, old Oschter lays red eggs on Maundy Thursday. If anyone knows why children in an agrarian society would believe a rabbit lays eggs, please tell us or a historian near you. We’re all dying to know. [7] In Germanic mythology, it is said that Ostara healed a wounded bird she found in the woods by changing it into a hare. Still partially a bird, the hare showed its gratitude to the goddess by laying eggs as gifts.

The Encyclopedia Britannica clearly explains the pagan traditions associated with the egg: “The egg as a symbol of fertility and of renewed life goes back to the ancient Egyptians and Persians, who had also the custom of colouring and eating eggs during their spring festival.” In ancient Egypt, an egg symbolised the sun, while for the Babylonians, the egg represents the hatching of the Venus Ishtar, who fell from heaven to the Euphrates.

The legend of the Easter bunny bringing eggs appears to have been brought to the United States by settlers from Germany. The German tradition of the Easter bunny (or Oschter Haws) migrated to America in the 1700s, accompanying German immigrants, many of whom settled in Pennsylvania. Over the past 200 years, the Easter bunny has become the most commercially recognized symbol of Easter in the United States. Other countries use other animals as the symbol of Easter, such as the cuckoo (in Switzerland).

In legend, the Easter bunny, also called the Easter hare and the spring bunny, brings baskets filled with colored eggs, candy, and sometimes toys to the homes of children on the night before Easter, in much the same way as Santa Claus is said to deliver presents on Christmas Eve. The Easter Bunny will either put the baskets in a designated place or hide them somewhere in the house or garden for the children to find when they wake up in the morning, giving rise to the tradition of the Easter egg hunt. Obviously, none of this comes from the Bible.

Because of the commercialization and possible pagan origins of Easter, many churches prefer to call it “Resurrection Sunday.” The rationale is that, the more we focus on Christ and His work on our behalf, the better. Paul says that without the resurrection of Christ our faith is futile (1 Corinthians 15:17). What more wonderful reason could we have to celebrate! Whether we call it “Easter” or “Resurrection Sunday,” what is important is the reason for our celebration, which is that Christ is alive, making it possible for us to have eternal life (Romans 6:4)!

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FAITH.

I lost my job. I was trying to find one and I have not yet got any. My wife is currently pregnant to our 3rd child, my daughter’s tuition is not yet fully paid, she is still to graduate this March, we have some bills and debt to pay and I don’t know where to go for financial aide. I am so confused and frustrated. Then I had a glimpse of hope… one of the companies I applied for last year contacted me for an interview. I went there hoping for a shot at having a job again and support my family’s needs. But I failed. I failed the first 2 tests… typing and some quiz. DARN IT! How did I fail them?! I passed them last year! I was filled with questions…

I went home. Caught a bus and sat down. I looked at what’s in front of me. The wide road that will take me home… Then I noticed the verse near the driver’s rear view mirror… Jeremiah 29:11.

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It made me remember the promise of God from a long time ago. God indeed never fails, although we do. God has plans to prosper ME and to give ME hope and a future, never to harm me. I guess all I have to do now is really trust His ways.

God, I really need some assistance from You.