The Bible’s Viewpoint
Easter—Is It for Christians?
WHAT is your view of Easter? To six-year-old Alexandra from Canada, it means a party. ‘Your friends have you over for cake,’ she said. ‘You write to the Easter bunny if he brought you chocolate eggs.’ To others, the occasion means little more than a few extra days free from work or school, a long weekend. And yet, to many, Easter is the most important religious festival of the year, one celebrating the resurrection to life of Jesus Christ three days after he had been put to death. But how does God view Easter? Is there more to it than commemorating Christ’s resurrection? If we want God’s approval, it is essential that we know.
There is no doubt that Christ’s resurrection is vitally important, central to Christian belief. The apostle Paul emphasized that by writing: “If Christ has not been raised up, our preaching is certainly in vain, and our faith is in vain. Further, if Christ has not been raised up, your faith is useless; you are yet in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17) So in order for our worship to be pleasing to God, we must exercise faith in the resurrection of Jesus.
But there is more to Easter than celebrating the resurrection of Christ. Men have taken the Biblical significance of the occasion and added symbols and customs that originate from ancient peoples who served false gods. For example, consider a well-known emblem of Easter in some countries—the rabbit. “Ancient pagans used the rabbit as a symbol of the abundant new life of the spring season. . . . The first record of the bunny as an Easter symbol is found in Germany about 1572,” says The Catholic Encyclopedia for School and Home. Likewise, the Easter-time use of hot cross buns, brightly colored eggs, or chocolate bells has its roots in pagan religion. And, incredibly, the very name Easter (used in some languages) relates to a pagan deity. The Westminster Dictionary of the Bible states that Easter was “originally the spring festival in honor of the Teutonic goddess of light and spring known in Anglo-Saxon as Eastre. As early as the 8th century the name was transferred by the Anglo-Saxons to the Christian festival designed to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.”
This pagan ancestry is widely recognized and well documented. The question is, Does it matter? Since Easter purports to honor Christ, does God overlook the fact that its trappings, even the name itself, are linked to the worship of other gods?
God’s View of Easter
In the first two of the Ten Commandments given through Moses, God said: “I am Jehovah your God . . . You must never have any other gods against my face . . . because I Jehovah your God am a God exacting exclusive devotion.” (Deuteronomy 5:6-9) Even the suggestion of false worship would not be tolerated, as was seen time and again in God’s dealings with the nation of Israel.
For example, while Moses was yet on Mount Sinai where he received those commandments on two stone tablets, the Israelites began to mix symbols of Egyptian religion with their worship of Jehovah. After collecting gold earrings from the people, a molten statue of a calf was made. Then came the proclamation: “This is your God, O Israel, who led you up out of the land of Egypt.” The Bible account tells us: “Finally Aaron [Moses’ brother] called out and said: ‘There is a festival to Jehovah tomorrow.’ So on the next day they were early in rising, and they began offering up burnt offerings and presenting communion sacrifices. After that the people sat down to eat and drink. Then they got up to have a good time.”—Exodus 32:1-6.
As with those who celebrate the modern-day Easter festival, the Israelites were professing to worship the true God. Remember, it was called “a festival to Jehovah.” They intended to associate Jehovah with the image. Yet, they were frolicking at a festival that mimicked an Egyptian deity, perhaps Apis, who was represented as a young bull. Was God pleased? Not at all. He nearly brought the nation to ruin on account of it!—Exodus 32:7-10.
Similarly, God expects Christians to keep their worship pure and untainted, having nothing to do with customs, symbols, or festivals associated with false gods. To illustrate: Suppose you knew that a knife had been used for a dishonorable purpose. How would you feel about using that same knife for cutting and eating your food? God has seen firsthand the unsavory pagan religious practices from which Easter originated. Should not his view be what matters to us?
The apostle Paul wrote: “What fellowship do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what sharing does light have with darkness? Further, what harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what portion does a faithful person have with an unbeliever? And what agreement does God’s temple have with idols?” The answer: None at all. He continues: “‘Therefore get out from among them, and separate yourselves,’ says Jehovah, ‘and quit touching the unclean thing;’ ‘and I will take you in.’”—2 Corinthians 6:14-17.
From earliest times, God has emphasized that his people worship him exclusively, having nothing to do with the appendages of false religion. True Christians show appreciation for the resurrection of Christ, not by celebrating a festival transferred from pagandom, but, rather, in line with Jesus’ command, by commemorating his death and, like Jesus, continually seeking to please God by worshiping Him with spirit and truth.—Luke 22:19; John 4:24.
[Blurb on page 17]
Since Easter purports to honor Christ, does God overlook the fact that its trappings are linked to the worship of other gods?
[Picture on page 16]
What connection do these things have with Jesus?