Have you ever been told Easter is a pagan word?
What about eggs and rabbits, are they pagan symbols too?
We are sometimes led to believe the usual Easter traditions are based around a pagan celebration and even though it is one of the holiest times on the Christian calendar, has it too many anti-Christian connections?
‘The Two Babylons’ (a book by Alexander Hislop)
Well, baloney to all the ‘nay sayers,’ even Christians who have not sought out the truth and repeat what they’ve heard or read to the detriment of those who care.
The ‘pagan festival’ originated from an often-cited 19th century book by the Scots reverend Alexander Hislop titled The Two Babylons.
Hislop maintained the word Easter was derived from Chaldean origins meaning Astarte, one of the titles of Beltis, the queen of heaven. The worship of Bel and Astarte was introduced into Britain, along with the Druids, by the Phoenicians who, centuries before the Christian era, traded to the tin mines of Cornwall.
So how serious or reliable is this connection and does it matter anyway?
It would take more than this article has space for to go through the entire research of Hebrew language relating to the subject of the Passover so let’s ‘skip to the chase.’
Does the word ‘Easter’ come from paganism?
The answer is a clear ‘no!’ Hislop’s research is very shoddy in many places. He tries to see paganism everywhere on even the flimsiest grounds. In this case, he imagines a connection between Easter and Astarte purely on the basis of sound similarity, with not the slightest trace of linguistic connection.
Basically, he connected two words from different languages together which have completely different meanings, only because they sound similar.
In reality, the word Easter (sometimes Ester) is really Anglo-Saxon, not Babylonian. It was the common word for both Passover and Easter.
An example of the word meaning the Jewish Passover comes from a 1563 homily: ‘Easter, a great, and solemne feast among the Jewes.’
What about bunnies and eggs
The easter eggs are not pagan but an early Christian tradition which began in Mesopotamia. In the season of Lent, those churches which would observe it would refrain from eating eggs.
But the hens were still laying them!
To avoid spoilage, the eggs would be hard-boiled. Then they were dyed red to symbolize the blood of Christ. Later on, other colours were used. For some Christians, cracking the egg open would symbolize the opening of Jesus tomb.
Much later, they were replaced with chocolate and candy eggs.
The Easter bunny goes back to German Lutherans, not pagans, although it was probably a hare. Due to its proverbially high fertility rate, ancient writers such as Pliny the Elder and Plutarch thought it was hermaphroditic and could thus reproduce without fertilization. Christians then used this as a symbol of the Virgin Mary.
Does it really matter?
It is illogical to avoid a Christian-based holiday which brings people together in worship because of some ‘perceived’ tie to paganism, while using everyday products and ignoring their obvious pagan heritage.
You might have your muffler replaced by Midas, wear shoes made by Nike, chew Trident gum or watch a movie by Orion Pictures.
Several days of our week and months of our year are named after Norse gods, except for Saturday which comes from the Roman god Saturn.
Several months are named after Roman gods. The eight planets and many of their moons are named after Roman deities. Mazda cars are named for a Zoroastrian deity and many people drive a Saturn, Mercury, Ares, Aurora and on it goes.
Even in God’s Word, some of the heroes in the Bible had paganized names. One example is Mordecai, the real hero of the book of Esther, has a name related to the Babylonian high god Marduk.
Daniel’s three friends who were prepared to be thrown in the furnace rather than worship any but the true God. They were originally named Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, but are better known by the names the Babylonians gave them: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 1:7). Abednego means ‘servant of Nebo,’ the pagan god.
To answer the first question, No, Easter is not named after a pagan festival, Easter eggs also refer back to an early Christian tradition and even the Easter bunny goes back to German Lutherans who thought the rabbit (actually, it was more than likely a hare) could reproduce without fertilization and it became a symbol of the Virgin Mary.
Researched from articles by Creation Ministry International
John Skinner served as an infantry soldier in Vietnam then the Tasmanian Police before taking up the position of CEO of the Australian Rough Riders Association (professional rodeo based in Warwick Qld). Before retirement to his small farm, he was a photo-journalist for 25 years. He is married with 3 children and 7 grandchildren.