Should Christians celebrate Easter?

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By BibleAsk Team


Christians and Easter

The question of whether Christians should celebrate Easter is a topic that has been debated within Christian circles for centuries. Some argue that the celebration of Easter has pagan origins and is therefore incompatible with Christian beliefs, while others contend that Easter provides an opportunity to commemorate the central event of the Christian faith—the resurrection of Jesus Christ. To address this question comprehensively, it is essential to examine the historical origins of Easter, its theological significance, and the biblical basis for its observance.

Historical Origins

The word “Easter” is indeed of Anglo-Saxon origin, derived from the Norse Eôstre, the goddess of spring in whose honor a festival was celebrated each year at the time of the vernal equinox spring by the Saxons of Northern Europe. The goddess Eastre’s earthly symbol was the rabbit-a symbol of fertility. It is commonly believed that early Christian missionaries adopted the name of this pagan festival to Christianize the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.

Additionally, the ancient Roman Catholic Church incorporated elements of spring fertility rituals into Easter celebrations to make Christianity more appealing to non-Christians. The Roman bishops urged that its celebration fall always on a Sunday (Eusebius Ecclesiastical History v. 23–25) a custom that doubtless contributed to the practice of the weekly Sunday observance.

The connection between Easter and pagan spring festivals is further reinforced by the timing of Easter, which coincides with the vernal equinox and the arrival of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. The symbolism of new life, rebirth, and fertility associated with these pagan festivals has contributed to the perception of Easter as a secular or even pagan holiday.

Theological Significance of the Resurrection

Despite its historical associations with pagan rituals, Easter holds profound theological significance for Christians. The celebration of Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, which is the central event of the Christian faith. As the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:17, “And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!”

The resurrection of Jesus Christ validates His identity as the Son of God and confirms the efficacy of His sacrificial death for the forgiveness of sins. In Romans 4:25, Paul affirms, “who [Jesus] was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.” The resurrection of Jesus demonstrates God’s victory over sin and death, offering hope for eternal life to all who believe in Him.

Biblical Basis for its Observance

According to the Bible, there is no connection between the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the common modern traditions related to Easter Sunday. The word Easter is mentioned only once in the King James Version of the Bible in Acts 12:4. Scholars recognize that this is a mistranslation of the word pascha, the Greek form of the Hebrew word meaning “Passover.”

Jesus’ resurrection is firmly rooted in biblical teachings. The Gospel accounts provide detailed narratives of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and subsequent resurrection. In Matthew 28:6, the angel declares to the women at the tomb, “He is not here; for He is risen, as He said.” Similarly, in Mark 16:6, the angel proclaims, “He is risen! He is not here.”

Furthermore, the Apostle Paul emphasizes the centrality of the resurrection in Christian faith. In 1 Corinthians 15:20, he writes, “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” This passage underscores the pivotal role of Jesus’ resurrection in securing victory over sin and offering hope for eternal life to believers.

Additionally, the memory of the resurrection provides an opportunity for Christians to proclaim the gospel message to others. In Mark 16:15, Jesus instructs His disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Celebrating the resurrection serves as a reminder of the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ and invites believers to share this message with others.

The Bible teaches that Jesus was resurrected on the first day of the week, Sunday (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2,9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1,19). Christ was resurrected from the dead, making it possible for us to have eternal life (Romans 6:4). Certainly, Jesus’ resurrection should be remembered and celebrated (1 Corinthians 15). But while it is appropriate for Jesus’ resurrection to be celebrated, the day on which Jesus’ resurrection is celebrated should not be referred to as Easter. Further, Christ’s resurrection is something that should be celebrated every day, not just once a year (Romans 6:4).

Christian Approaches to its Celebration

Within Christianity, there are diverse approaches to the celebration of Easter. Some Christians choose to focus exclusively on the spiritual significance of Jesus’ resurrection, emphasizing worship, prayer, and reflection on the redemptive work of Christ. Others incorporate cultural traditions into their observance of the holiday.

Ultimately, the manner in which Christians choose to celebrate Easter should be guided by their conscience and a desire to honor God. As the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 14:5-6, “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it.”

Conclusion

In conclusion, the question of whether Christians should celebrate Easter involves considerations of historical origins, theological significance, and biblical teachings. While Easter may have pagan associations, its observance provides an opportunity for Christians to commemorate the central event of their faith—the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The celebration of Easter underscores the victory of Christ over sin and death, offering hope for eternal life to all who believe in Him. Ultimately, the manner in which Christians choose to celebrate Easter should be guided by their conscience and a desire to honor God, recognizing the importance of proclaiming the gospel message to others and reflecting on the redemptive work of Christ.

In His Service,
BibleAsk Team

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