Monday, April 18, 2011

Easter & The Resurrection, Debunking Novel Speculations

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As we approach Easter 2011 as always we are confronted with individuals, some believers and some non-believers who assert that the Christian celebration of Easter is nothing more than an extension and reproduction of pagan festivals and ritualism of ancient times. While there are some pagan elements within almost every secular/Christian celebration that occurs today, the facts are that the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus doesn't reproduce, imitate or infringe upon paganism.

The Name Easter

One of the first myths to dispel is the name and the origin of the name that we use for Easter. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, in Latin, Easter is Festa Paschalia (plural because it is a seven-day feast), The 7 day feast to which the Latin word refers is the Pascha or Passover as it was known in New Testament times. This Latin phrase, not the related and associated German phrase, became the basis for the French Pâques, the Italian Pasqua, and the Spanish Pascua. Also related are the Scottish Pask, the Dutch Paschen, the Danish Paaske, and the Swedish Pask

{Special note regarding the German phrase: Another idea involves the history of the Frankish church (Germans who settled in Rome during the fifth century). Their celebration of Christ's resurrection included the word "alba", which means white (the color of the robes worn during the resurrection festival). Alba also meant sunrise. So when the name of the festival was translated into German, the sunrise meaning, ostern, was selected, likely in error. One theory is that Ostern is the origin of the word Easter.}

What's more is that the pagan celebration of the Great Mother goddess of the Saxon people in Northern Europe was known as "Easter" was named after goddess Eostre (a.k.a. Eastre). However this practice was was a product of anglo-saxon descent and a development far too late to have any biblical significance. In

fact some of the best information that can be gathered about the name Easter as we have adopted in our modern language from it's German, not Latin roots is as follows:
"Eostre is a very obscure Goddess, and uniquely Anglo-Saxon Pagan. She is not mentioned at all in the Norse corpus and only fleetingly in the Old English by Bede in De Temporum Rationale. Her material is so scant that some scholars have speculated she was not a Goddess at all, but that Eostre was merely a name for the holiday. Her name is connected for words for "east" and "shining." It is therefore related to the Greek godname Eos, Goddess of the dawn in their pantheon. Finding place names indicating her worship are difficult due to this relation to the word east. Her name survived in the German name of the Christian holy tide as Ostara, therefore if she was a Goddess, she was worshipped there as well." ~ Wednesbury Shire History of Anglo-Saxon Paganism 
Interestingly enough, people seem to go from this late dating and attribution of Easter to Anglo-Saxon paganism of an obscure goddess to, early myths that predate Christianity and that run parallel to Judaism. This is called parallelomania (Reinventing Jesus ~ Ed. KomoKonoszewski, James Sawyer, Daniel Wallace) Contrary to most conspiracists in modern times, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus within Christianity has a fairly deep and secure root and can be traced back and placed solidly within 1st century by most historical accounts. 

The debated question has been when the celebration was to take place and how the celebration correlated within Christian circles to the Paschal or Passover celebration that the Jews held traditionally within Judaism. 

Easter...When?

Over time the debate regarding the celebration of Pesach or Passover aka: The Feast of Unleavened Bread, (the 15th day of the Jewish Month Nissan), which has come to be known as the time of Easter by many within Christian circles, was originally called the debate over Quartodecimanism. Quartodecimanism is the Latin term for the practice of fixing the celebration of Passover for Christians on the fourteenth (Latin quarta decima) day of Nissan in the Old Testament's Hebrew Calendar. The problem stemmed from two things: 1- Christians held to Sunday or the first day of the week as being the time of resurrection according to scripture and 2- the actual celebration of Passover could be on any day of the week, was associated with the new moon and was not related to the first day of the week celebration of resurrection within Christian tradition. Please note that the first day of the week controversy was BEFORE the Gregorian calendar and naming of the days of the week after pagan gods...PLEASE!!!

Back to the subject...

Example, in 2011 the Passover actually begins Monday April 19th in Judaism, however Easter in Western Christianity is celebrated April 24th and "Pesach" on the same date for Eastern Orthodox believers. The question is whether the bible command to observe Passover according to Judaism, in a perpetual sense, is still in effect, or can the celebration be adjusted to become commensurate with the Christian tradition of the celebration of the resurrection of Christ on a Sunday. It is noted that the first and early second century church seemed to celebrate the resurrection event every Sunday as opposed to annually. The importance of the question is understood as we read in Eusebius (Church History V.23):
"A question of no small importance arose at that time [i.e. the time of Pope Victor, about A.D. 190]. The dioceses of all Asia, as from an older tradition, held that the fourteenth day of the moon, on which day the Jews were commanded to sacrifice the lamb, should always be observed as the feast of the life-giving pasch [epi tes tou soteriou Pascha heortes], contending that the fast ought to end on that day, whatever day of the week it might happen to be. However it was not the custom of the churches in the rest of the world to end it at this point, as they observed the practice, which from Apostolic tradition has prevailed to the present time, of terminating the fast on no other day than on that of the Resurrection of our Saviour. Synods and assemblies of bishops were held on this account, and all with one consent through mutual correspondence drew up an ecclesiastical decree that the mystery of the Resurrection of the Lord should be celebrated on no other day but the Sunday and that we should observe the close of the paschal fast on that day only."
A second attempt to address the issue was at the Council Of Nicea in 325 AD. The council set to establish a uniform date of the celebration making it independent of the New Moon observances and reconciliation of the Jewish Passover. From there a third and even fourth attempt to set forth a uniform and standard date for Easter occurred. Research can be done on this for greater detail, but the fact remains that the celebration of the resurrection wasn't in question even if the timing of it was.

Novel & Radical Speculations On Easter

Since we have established that most of the modern controversy over Easter is either too late or is based on linguistic issues and translations from German rather than from Latin into English, most of the controversy and misinformation regarding this has already been settled. However, many of these radical speculations and myth theories continue to be of the most complex questions regarding the Christian celebration of Easter. 
Let's look at two of the most common theories.

1- Easter is in fact the celebration of Ishtar which was a pagan festival of the sun.

As stated above, this myth seems to be an attribution of late pagan/goddess theory to early biblical history, attributing the later development of non biblical myths to earlier myths and layering one on top of the other at various times. From best historical discoveries found at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, this particular myth seems to be  associated with the Fall of Sophia and the descent of Inanna/Ishtar. (two different female deities) 

To be specific, it is said that Inanna/Ishtar came to raise Dumuzi/Tammuz (corresponding two deities) from the dead. This is where many stop and claim that Christians have either borrowed the tradition of the resurrection of Jesus, or that the tradition is tainted when it comes to celebrating the resurrection in general.

This means that based on evidence, that although Ishtar was a pagan goddess and worship was given to her, there is no record that Ishtar had a stake or interest in bringing about the resurrection of Tammuz and furtherm that Tammuz was brought back to life to reign as god or for that matter reign in a permanent fashion.
However, the best textual evidence affirms that the raising of Damuzi/Tammuz from the dead was an assumption and imposition upon the story without warrant or evidence. The book, "The Death of Dumuzi", discovered at Nag Hammadi, Egypt proves that in the legend, Inanna/Ishtar did not descend to the Underworld to resurrect her consort, but instead sent him there as her substitute. The only textual evidence to suggest that Dumuzi was raised from the dead is a fragmentary text which implies that his sister Geshtinanna took his place as a substitute for half the year.  ~ ["Mythologies of the Ancient World," By S. N. Kramer, Doubleday, New York (1961) 110-115; S. N. Kramer, The Sumerians, University of Chicago Press (1963) 156-160; T. Jacobsen, Toward the Image of Tammuz, University Press, Cambridge (1970).] 
2- The celebration of the resurrection was associated with Adonis, Attis, and the Mithras, and is therefore simply a redevelopment of pagan concepts.

Once again, this type of theory is froth with problems. The first being that the development of the myths are again either after or during second century CE. This is well after the celebration of the resurrection had gone from every Sunday weekly to at least annually in conjunction with the Jewish Passover or Pesach celebration. The fact is that these myths and other like them which are of late date seem to be a developments of Greeks and pagans in response to the Christian teaching of the resurrection of Jesus and the success that Christianity was experiencing. 

Quoting New Testament scholar and historian, Michael Licona, Lee Strobel in his book, The Case For The Real Jesus writes the following:
"Second, T.N.D. Mettinger- a senior Swedish scholar, professor at Lund University, and member of the Royal Academy of Letters, History, and Antiquities of Stockholm- wrote one of teh most recent academic treatments of dying and rising gods in antiquity. He admitted in his book Riddle Of The Resurrection that the consensus among modern scholars-nearly universal-is that there were no dying and rising gods that proceeded Christianity. They all post-dated the first century" ~ [The Case For The Real Jesus, Strobel, Zondervan 2007 pg. 160] 
Lee then goes on to state that although Mettinger joins the scant numbers of scholars who believe that some pagan rising and dying god myths can be found that predate Christianity, he yet affirms that none of the myths that he is aware of offer anything that is either borrowed or paralleled within Christianity especially as it pertains to the resurrection of Jesus. 

Even though Mithras was a Persian cult dating as far back at 14th century BCE, it was also a secret cult and it wasn't mentioned the Western world (which includes Rome) until 66AD and was not introduced in practice to the Western world until about 90AD and was not further developed until 138-161 AD.   

The myths of Attis, Adonis and even Osiris in their current form, are after 2nd Century or are not parallel to the resurrection account found within the bible and are limited in nature to a seasonal harvest and seasons associated with farming. 

So the kind of parallels to make a connection to the biblical Jesus and his resurrection simply do not exist. 

Conclusion

It seems that the only controversy in the early Christian church was over how the date and time of the celebration of resurrection would be honored by those accepting the scriptures and also accepting Jesus as Lord. Remarkably enough it also seems from ample evidence, that the resurrection itself was never called into question, further affirming the fact that the celebration of the resurrection was an early church tradition and that tradition was based on the person of a resurrected Jesus himself.

It also holds that the very name of the Easter festival didn't have it's origins in the Anglo-Saxon fertility mother-goddess Eostre, but in the foundation of the biblical celebration translated from the Latin term  Festa Paschalia which is plural for the Paschal Celebration or Passover. 

In addition it seems that all historic attempts to place second century reinterpretations of rising and dying deities into the first century roots of Christianity fail. In any case, it seems that the substance of the celebration of resurrection itself was not in question, and that speculations regarding Easter being originally a pagan festival or worship of rising and dying gods and goddesses are unfounded and unsupportable by the evidence that exists.

Blessed! 

8 comments:

  1. Some said, what about the practices of the "egg" and the "rabbit" which has always been associated with pagan fertiliy worship?

    I didn't examine those things in the article because the point of the article was to establish teh fact that the resurrection of Jesus predated and preceeded all of the pagan practices. Be clear the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus DID NOT have anything to do with a bunny, egg hunt and candy, nor did it have anything to do with painted eggs...so the element of paganism in today's easter celebration yet exists, HOWEVER, none of those practices infringe or hinder the fact that because Jesus rose, the celebration of his resurrection exists.

    Now some say, why can't the name be disassociated from the celebration. That would be viable IF it were a supportable truth that the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus was an attemnpt to "replace" some sort of pagan worship that existed in the 1st century or prior CE, however the evidence does not bear out that assertion, so what could the celebration of teh resurrection possibly be replacing?

    So although secularism is present in the modern celebration of the resurrection, that by itself does not do anythign to invalidate the celebration as the celebration itself by the name of Passover/Pascha can be traced directly to and through scripture.

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  2. This would be a credible article if the facts presented were accurate. The Egyptian religion you said was "too late in the time-line" was practiced almost 2000 years before Christianity. You were, however, correct about some things. For example, the 2 religions overlap in many ways. In fact many religions predating christianity carried alot of the same traits from virgin birth right down to the day to the crucifiction and resurrection.

    I'm not asking you to take my word for it on "faith" because to do that would be ridiculous on your part. Look for yourself at the history of various religions and you too will see the evidence that the church tries it's hardest to keep secret since it disassembles the christian argument piece by piece.

    All I'm saying is EDUCATE YOURSELF first!

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  3. Anon,

    The facts are that what you state regarding the Egyptian religious practices that predate Christian practice is not accurate. The form of the pre-Christian religious practice was no place close to what we see within the development of Christianity regarding resurrection.

    Secondly, the suggestion that virgin birth, crucifixion and resurrection existed in a single religious cult is also not factual. There were elements of some of these things in various beliefs, but they were not amalgamated into one thought, belief or practice and they were very different. Dying gods were lords of the underworld, not the world itself, the rising were associated with the Nile, or with seasonal harvests, not a once and for all death given to mankind.

    Now EDUCATE yourself on this please. What you try to do is meld tradition both pre and post Christianity together and recreate an alternate pagan religion that looks like CHristianity and there is no evidence to support your assertion.

    We can look at it more indepth however, because I'm fully aware of the amalgamations that the critics often use to try to prove their point. So be specific and let's look at the ones you want to assert.

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  4. Let's look at one of these resurrection myths that I suppose Anon thinks proves his point that Christianity borrowed the tradition from Egypt 2000 years previously...

    Let's look at Osiris in greater detail as he was the greatest god of Egypt and said to be the first king of Egypt:

    1st Osiris earned the name "wennefer" which means "eternally good" he also had a sister named Isis who was hailed because of what she taught women. Osiris also had a violent brother named Seth.

    First stop there...we see 2 males and 1 females. (So is this supposed to be a parallel to the triune God or Godhead of Christianity??? If so we have some explaining to do about what we see next)

    Let's go on:

    There was "another brother" (that defeats the trinitarian parallel now doesn't it? But we're not through yet) named Blind Horus, whom Seth had murdered already. (BTW: Blind Horus didn't come back)

    Now Seth sought to kill Osiris...(So is this the parallel of God sending Jesus and Jesus laying down his life right???)

    Seth "tricked" Osiris into a wooden chest, sealed it with molten lead and floated the chest down the Nile. Isis, Osiris's, sister/wife, rescued him, but Seth found his body and cut it up into hundreds if not thousands of pieces and spread them all over Egypt and proclaims that he has destroyed the body of a god. (that kinda debunks that God sending Jesus parallel doesn't it?)

    Isis and her "sister" Nephtys gather the fragments and consult Anubis (the god of the dead) and Thoth (the moon god)...

    Wait a minute...now there are some more gods...that 3 went to 5 to 6 to a brother/sister/husband/wife...what is this???

    Osiris's reconstructed body is the first mummy of Egypt. Isis wants to have a child, so she hovers over Osiris dead body and fans oxygen into him long enough for him to impregnate her and finally die.

    Then here we go, now that Isis is pregnant, Seth wants her killed.

    She runs away with 7 scorpions and is refused shelter by a rich woman (OK here we go with the nativity scene right???)Isis, scorpions are upset at the woman for refusing to give her shelter (no room in the Inn) so they sting the woman's son, but Isis being the goddess that she is, had mercy on him and saved him from death.

    However after her son Horus was born, he too was also bitten by a scorpion and she, in spite of her goodness, was unable to save him because she had used up her power...

    Her pain reached Ra (the sun god, there goes another one...) who stopped and sent Thoth to cure Horus and bring him back to life. (OK we have a resurrection!!!)

    Seth and Horus have the fight of the ages over who should rule and reign, Seth even at one point lying in wait and tearing out the eyes of Horus in a fight.

    Then when Horus though it may be over, Seth invites him to a party and tries to have gay sex with him. Horus catches Seth's semen and shows it to Isis, his mother. Isis, cuts Horus's hand off and throws it into the Nile and takes the semen from her son Horus and throws it into Seth's garden on his lettuce so Seth eats Horus's semen...OK...

    see 2

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  5. 2 con't

    Seth then tells the other gods that Horus isn't worthy because they had homosexual sex. At the trial the gods tell teh semen to testify...Seth's semen comes out of the Nile and speak, then Horus's semen comes out of the garden and out of Seth's forehead (uh oooh...the gig is up, Seth done ate Horus semen on a sandwich!) It appears on his head as a sun disk and Thoth like the design and takes it and puts it on his own head.

    Seth, being outdone then challenged Horus to a boat race, but he made his boat of out of a mountain and it sunk. Nevertheless Horus won the race and Seth was consigned to the desert and is supposedly lonely and angry.

    OK...Now, where is a supposed parallel? Is it in the birth of Horus from an otherwise dead god Osiris, who was cut up into pieces??? What about Lordship parallel,,,there is a fight and noone has all authority??? Maybe the parallel is in the resurrection of Horus from a scorpion bite when he was a baby??? How astounding!

    Since Christianity borrowed from this religion according to Anon, and I'm so uneducated about the subject, maybe he'll be glad to help me out here...Is there any specific parallel that really is a parallel or somethign that even resembles Christianity???

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  6. More specifically is there something that resembles the resurrection aside from a baby coming back from teh dead after a scorpion bite or a temporary life given to a cut up dead god so he could impregnate his sister/wife???

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  7. http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2011/04/19/name-easter-pagan

    Pastor, I wanted to add to this to this write up. I was having a debate on Facebook and the ignorance and the desire to find a demonic influence under for everything is appalling.

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    Replies
    1. Good Paul. Thanks and yes ignorance and genetic fallacy does abound on this issue.

      Delete

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