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Author Topic: In retrospect, what about Easter?  (Read 2195 times)

Offline Quasar

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In retrospect, what about Easter?
« on: April 11, 2016, 10:11:06 AM »
As late as the fourth century A.D., the holiday known as Easter was called PASCHA ("Passover" in English). Easter, however, appears to be derived from EASTRE, the name or festival of the Teutonic goddess of spring, to whom sacrifices were offered in the month of April. The word is Germanic, not Greek or Hebrew. We can surmise that when Christianity began to make inroads among the Teutonic (Germanic) tribes, the name EASTER was transferred to the Christian celebration, inasmuch as both occurred at the same time of year.

The earliest observation of PASCHA took place at the same time as Passover, on the 14th day of the Jewish month of Nisan. This celebration is referred to as the "Quartodeciman Passover" from the Latin word for "fourteenth."
Moves towards changing the date of PASCHA began early in the second century. The motivation behind this change was fear of the authorities coupled with anti-Jewish sentiment. The actual course of events appears to have been as follows.

Bishop Sixtus of Rome, who presided from A.D. 116-126, may have been the first to observe a Sunday date rather than the 14th of Nisan. These three reasons support the idea.

1. According to the church historian eusebius, a later Roman bishop named Victor sought to impose a Sunday observance on the entire Church and to break ties with those Christians who obseved the 14th of Nisan. He was opposed by Iraneus, who discouraged such a break and argued that peace should be kept among Christians who celebrated the day on different dates. He contended that even earlier church leaders who did not observe the Quartodeciman date were at peace with those who did. In mentioning the names of one church leader after another, Iraneus used reverse chronological order, stopping at Bishop Sixtus.

2. The rule of Bishop Sixtus coicided with the measures of the Roman Emperor Hadrian that were aimed at repressing anything Jewish. (Hadrian's reign was A.D. 117-13 . It would have made sense if the church had been pressured at that time not to observe the 14th of Nisan. Any anti-Jewish feeling would certainly have been catalysed by Hadrian's prohibition of Jewish customs and festigvals. This culminated in the expulsion of the Jews, including the Jewish Christian church leaders, from Jerusalem , circa A.D. 135. (After that, the Jewish church was composed of Gentiles).

3. According to the fourth century Bishop Epiphanius, the Sunday observance of PASCHA was first introduced in Jerusalem after A.D. 135 when the Jews were forced out of Jerusalem by Hadrian. If the new Sunday observance began with Sixtus in his tenure of A.D. 116-126, this would have allowed time for the practice to have spread to Jerusalem by A.D. 135.

The next significant step on record comes from the late second century, the time of Bishop Victor of Rome. As already mentioned, Victor attempted to make the Sunday observance of PASCHA uniform. A primary motivating factor for Victor would have been the presence in Rome of many Christians from Asia Minor who observed the Quartodeciman Passover. Their presence alongside the Roman believers would have meant that Christians were observing two different dates for the same occasion. Perhaps Victor's only motive was his desire to ensure uniformity within the church.

In any case, by the middle of the third century, blatant anti-Semitic statements are found in various Christian sources. In a work called DE PASCHA COMPUTUS, the author, known as Pseudo-Cyprian, wrote contemptuously of following Jewish practice, expressing the desire for Christians not to "walk in blindness and stupidity behind the Jews as though they did not know the day of Passover."

Finally, in the fourth century, PASCHA became decisively separated from Passover and restricted to a Sunday observance. Not only individuals but church councils contributed to the change in date. In A.D. 314, the Council of Arles recommended a single date for the uniform observance of PASCHA, but it was the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 that was the watershed that solidified this motion. The date of PASCHA was fixed as the Sunday following the full moon that falls on or after the vernal equinox. The edict of Council of Nicaea proclaimed:

"All the brethren in the East who formerly celebrated Easter
with the Jews, will henceforth keep it at the same time as the
Romans, with us and with all those who from ancient times
have celebrated the feast at the same time with us."

Ultimate official support came from Emperor Constantine, whose conciliar letter to all bishops of the same time period announced it "unworthy" to celebrate PASCHA on Passover.

Nevertheless, complications arose because some churches followed the Jewish or lunar calendar. Full uniformity in calculating the date was not secured until as late as the eighth century. The Eastern Orthodox Church still calculates Easter differently.

"Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch--as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed."
1 Cor.5:7.

"I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except by me."  Jn.14:6.





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