Easter Myths, part 1

Updated 7/12/2022

If you think I’m about to say that the resurrection is a myth, forget it! The resurrection of Jesus is central to my life and theology. I’d have no reason to exist without it. This is about “other stuff.”

Myth: The resurrection occurred on Easter Sunday. This won’t come as a shock. We all know that Easter is a Christian commemoration of the event, not a celebration of the exact day of the year. But why do we do it that way? In the early centuries of Christianity, many churches in the Roman Empire began to object to celebration on the traditional date, considering it to be a “humiliating subjection to the Synagogue.” During the 2nd Century, many of those churches had begun celebrating Easter on a Sunday, regardless of the Biblical calendar. For a clue to the mindset, there’s this ancient text: “Sunday commemorates the resurrection of the lord, the victory over the Jews.”

In AD 325, Emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea to discuss two major issues in the church. One of those was “the Passover Controversy”, the disagreement between churches that commemorated the resurrection on the Jewish feast day and those that did not. Constantine’s view, of course, won out. He wrote,

It seemed to every one a most unworthy thing that we should follow the custom of the Jews in the celebration of this most holy solemnity, who, polluted wretches! Having stained their hands with a nefarious crime, are justly blinded in their minds.”

It is fit, therefore, that, rejecting the practice of this people, we should perpetuate to all future ages the celebration of this rite, in a more legitimate order, which we have kept from the first day of our Lord’s passion even to the present times. Let us then have nothing in common with the most hostile rabble of the Jews. … In pursuing this course with a unanimous consent, let us withdraw ourselves, my much honored brethren, from that most odious fellowship. … [I urge you] to use every means, that the purity of your minds may not be affected by a conformity in any thing with the customs of the vilest of mankind. … As it is necessary that this fault should be so amended that we may have nothing in common with the usage of these parricides and murderers of our Lord.

The date for Jewish celebration of the Passover season Feasts is tied by Divine Ordinance to specific dates on the Hebrew calendar (see Leviticus 23). Non-Jews are released from such ordinances, so I don’t care on what day we celebrate the Resurrection. But you should be aware that the name, “Easter”, and most of the secular traditions tied to the holiday are pagan in origin, and that Nicene Council separated it from Passover for blatantly anti-Semitic reasons.

Myth: The crucifixion occurred on Passover, Nisan 14. Well, yes and no. The crucifixion happened on Nisan 15, after the sacrifices and after the official Passover as specified in Torah. It became customary, even in the New Testament, to refer to the three spring feasts together as “Passover.” Technically, Passover is just the short period of twilight between Nisan 14 and 15, on the Jewish calendar (see Part 2 of this series). Immediately after Passover, the 7-day Feast of Unleavened Bread begins on Nisan 15. And in the middle of this period, there is the Feast of Early Firstfruits. Jesus’ Last Supper was a Passover Seder. That meal always begins during that twilight period, true Passover, and ends around midnight on Nisan 15, when celebrants adjourn to the streets and rooftops to sing the Hallel Psalms together. The crucifixion, therefore, occurred on Nisan 15, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

My reckoning of the Crucifixion Week timeline. ©Ron Thompson

Myth: Jesus died at the very instant that the High Priest plunged his knife into the heart of the Passover Lamb. I’ve heard this one even from Ray Vander Laan, a man I consider to be an expert on Israel and its customs. But it’s wrong on so many levels! First, the sacrifices occurred during the day before the Seder, on Nisan 14; the crucifixion was the next day, Nisan 15. Second, there wasn’t just one lamb; there was a lamb for approximately every ten people celebrating. Perhaps 100,000 lambs, killed over a period of hours! Which one are they talking about? Third, the High Priest killed only his own lamb, and that much earlier in the day, before the Temple gates were opened. All the other lambs had to be killed by their owners, not by a priest. Fourth, each lamb was killed by a quick slash of its throat, as specified by scripture. A knife to its heart would be considered cruelty, and in the context of the Feast, could get one stoned. Sometimes, the melodrama in the pulpit is just crazy!

To be continued…

For a complete series on the Principle Jewish Feasts, as specified in Leviticus 23, please see The Jewish Feasts–The Back of My Mind.

Author: Ron Thompson

Retired President of R. L Thompson Engineering, Inc.

3 thoughts on “Easter Myths, part 1”

  1. Dear Sir,
    Originally, there was only sedar. However, as time went by it became two. You were correct to notice that individual kill their lambs in their homes. The only sedar was twilight of 14. By the the time they made the sedar two they had started temple style worship which was not part of their worship style at the time of the inauguration of sedar. So, they still eat both on Nisan 14. The original, family based instituted one was usually taken at twilight. Then, on twilight of Nisan 15, remember that Nisan 15 begins at the close of Nisan 14 but that twilight belongs now to 15, the priest carries out the slithing of the throat or slaughter another lamb. This is national Passover as different from the one originally instituted which had been taking according to the commandment. This other one is just a ceremony or theatrical because it is their invention perhaps to give the priest a role to play in the sedar. They eat the second sedar not in a haste with their loin cloth girded around their waist. This one is eaten in a relax mood and party like manners. That affords the pleasure of carrying on to almost the day break of Nisan 15. Original sedar was to be eaten in a haste and not something funfare like the second one. Yes, the melodramatic exuberance of the preacher goofed when he could not differentiate slaughter from other styles of immolation. However, it is possible that the ceremonial Passover was being slaughtered around the time of Jesus crucifixion. Another melodramatist said that the Passover lamb escaped showing that the ritual was done with. They all must be accommodated in the story line.
    However, Jesus did a super earlier than the Passover where he lamented that he would not partake of the bread and wine until in his father’s kingdom. He either instituted a new super or changed the contents of sedar. He washed the legs, he introduced wine perhaps in the place of bitter herbs. He deemphasized the slaughtered lamb. It was just wine, unleavened bread and washing of legs- is this sedar. The date he did all these was Nisan 13 twilight. He was arrested on thirteen Nisan and tried throughout the broad daylight of Nisan 13, as the twilight of fourteen was approaching was Jesus burial. That was the haste that led them to release Jesus from the cross. The following day, broad daylight of Nisan 14 they came to Pilate to let them go and put guards. They could not seek such transaction if the day that followed was a Sabbath. The day they went to Pilate was still Nisan 14 before the Sabbath began on twilight of Nisan 15.
    Many blessings!

    1. In the meantime, though, I disagree with you in several respects. In brief:

      1. The only confirmation of a second Seder that I can find anywhere in documents that I trust, including the Mishnah, which I regard as authoritative, regards a second Seder, held a month after the REAL Seder, for those who can’t make it to Jerusalem during the week of Pesach. Theories about a second Seder a day before or after are inventions by folks who are confused by the explicitly Jewish nature of some of the wording in the Gospel accounts of Crucifixion Week. I cover this in some detail in my newer posts.

      2. The twilight time between two Jewish days actually belongs to NEITHER day. Odd, but done for a reason. To keep holy days holy by isolating each day from the previous and next day. This is also covered in my more recent posts, with a graphic illustration.

      3. The only role the priests EVER had in the Pesach sacrifices was to collect the blood in a bowl and to splash it on the altar.

      I’m going to stop here, because, with all due respect, I disagree with almost every contention you make in your comments above. What you describe has no basis whatsoever in history or in Scripture. Please read my newer posts.

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