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Easter... or Passover? Acts 12:4

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Acts 12:4

“And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.”

The word ‘Easter’ occurs just once in the entire Bible. Is it meant to say ‘Easter’? Or, is it, as many claim, an ‘error’, that should read ‘Passover’? After all, say critics, the word translated as ‘Easter’ is pascha (the paschal sacrifice/lamb, with reference to the Passover), from the Aramaic, pecach (Passover), whose root is pacach – to pass over. Open and shut case! Or is it?

The very first reference to the Passover is in Exodus 12:11, where it is a direct statement, that the Lord would ‘pass over’ Egypt to smite the first-born of every family where there was no blood painted on the door lintels. Here the word for Passover is pecach. Moses commanded the people to “keep the Passover” and the command and meaning remained the same through the centuries. It was held on the “fourteenth day of the first month” (Numbers 28:16). However, there is evidence that the people changed this to the “fourteenth day of the second month” (2 Chronicles 30:2). Later, the day was returned to its original days (35:1 and Ezra 6:19).

The same word for ‘passover’ is used throughout scripture – except in the one case, Acts 12:4. The reason why is found in the passage itself.

Anyone familiar with Jewish content, mode of transmission of facts, and their expression, knows that the Jewish scribes (and Paul) were meticulous in passing-on Judaistic knowledge. Errors were simply not permitted. So, if ‘Easter’ means pascha... how could this be? Did Paul make a mistake? Or, did the first transcriber do so? Or, did the KJAV translators make a blunder?

Please note that if an error was made, it also left out the essential definite article, ‘The’ (as in ‘The Passover’), but added its import by using a capital letter ‘E’ for ‘Easter’. This is a very deliberate transcription! (‘The’, more often than not, is implied by such a use). Why, then, is this single usage there in the first place? If an error existed in the original it would have been spotted at the time, because Acts was part of Paul’s report to the elders at Jerusalem, as well as a document written by Luke as a kind of ‘travelogue’. It would also have been noticed by the many readers and transcribers of his epistles and book as they copied them for the widespread churches. Indeed, as an error, it would not simply be a spelling mistake, but a radical, electrifying reference to a pagan festival! And this is what it is!

The word ‘passover’ was not known until it was used by William Tyndale in his Bible version (1526-31). Until that time no English Bible contained the word, which was left untranslated. Yet, ‘Easter’ was first used in his version. Wycliffe’s version referred to the Latin, pask or paske.

In Tyndale’s Bible, he used ‘Easter’ or ester, 14 times, and its allied words more times than that. However, in the Old Testament he retained ‘passover’. He is said to have interpreted ‘passover’ as ‘Easter’ in Paul’s book, because that is how the Christians (remember – by then including many gentiles/Romans and ex-pagans) in his day recognised the feast-day (pagan and Christian merging because they were about the same time). This, however, is only a partial answer.

The fact that we know Easter is a pagan festival does not mean Tyndale made a mistake, only that he used a word familiar to the people. Subsequent versions of the Bible returned most instances of ‘Easter’ back to ‘passover’, until we come to the KJAV, which left only one example. (Source: Trinitarian Bible Society Quarterly Record, date unknown). But, this is not an error! Tynedale was right!

A Matter of Timing

You will note that Herod took Peter prisoner after killing James, “because he saw it pleased the Jews”. His intention was to deal with Peter “after Easter”. The Passover had already been celebrated... we know this because Peter was taken during the time of unleavened bread (April 14th to 21st), which took place over seven days AFTER the Passover! This is precisely why Paul did not use the word ‘passover’ (which always refers to the actual meal rather than the whole period). He was simply using a term familiar to gentile/Roman, ex-pagan Christians.

‘Easter’ and ‘pascha’ were interchangeable, because the Romans celebrated their pagan holiday about the same time. Which is why the Romaphile Herod used the word himself, referring to the pagan Roman festival, which was to take place in a few days’ time and NOT to the Jewish Passover.

His reference was to the death and resurrection of Tammuz, the Sun god, whereas scripture refers to Christ as the paschal Lamb Who would rise again. As the Passover was officially over, Herod was not talking about the Jewish Passover, but about Rome’s degenerate festival... just as he wished to please the Jews, so he wanted to please the Roman occupiers (and his own wicked self)! It is quite amusing (and sinfully sad) that sunrise services observed by critics of the word ‘Easter’, to celebrate Easter in our churches, are taken directly from this pagan festival! Bear in mind that Herod was an Edomite, who was party to many Babylonian beliefs and practices.

Therefore, Paul used the word ‘Easter’ to refer to the pagan festival, and not to the Passover (which was already past), even though the word he used was the same as for ‘passover’.

There is, then, no mistake, and the KJAV translators were perfectly correct in using it. This is given further weight by the fact that the KJAV pages were checked and studied many times until it was published, and then again checked after publication, especially so as to rectify printer’s errors. The men who did the checking were all highly-established genuine Christian theologians, and would not have made such a blatant, obvious error. What is at fault is not the KJAV, but those unbelievers who do not like its translation and who cannot be bothered to review the scripture in its proper context.

© November 2013

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Bible Theology Ministries - PO Box 415, Swansea, SA5 8YH
United Kingdom

Bible Theology Ministries - PO Box 415, Swansea, SA5 8YH United Kingdom