Passover or Easter

Translation Errors In The KJV – Acts 12:4 (Easter or Passover?)

 


I almost didn’t write about this because it’s usually the most used anti-KJV argument used and I hate to be cliche. However, it does need to be explained properly and correctly. One of the difficult parts of this translation is that it’s dependent upon one’s understanding of history. The KJV side of the argument is a bit weak but I will present the arguments from the biggest name in the KJVO movement. Sit back because this will be a long and information-heavy post.


Acts 12:4 (Easter or Passover?)

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. (Acts 12:4 KJV)

After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. (Acts 12:4 NIV)

When he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four [a]squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people. (Acts 12:4 NASB)

One can easily see that the KJV differs clearly about which holiday Herod was waiting to pass before he put Peter to death. Let us be clear; Easter and Passover are two different celebrations. Yes, they were about the same time on the calendar but they were not the same. I will present the common defense of the KJV translation and then I will explain why I believe it to be a weak argument.

I will write all of my responses to the KJV argument in regular black and all of the content from Chick.com in yellow which is the main color on their website.


In defense of Easter, by Chick.com

(Comments by Chick.com in yellow with rebuttals by Dustoffthebible as regular black text.)

What is Easter?

Coming to the word “Easter” in God’s Authorized Bible, they seize upon it imagining that they have found proof that the Bible is not perfect.

No, we seize upon it to prove the KJV is flawed…. because it is. And the KJV is not given the title “authorized” because it was authorized by God. It was called the Authorized Version because the governing powers declared it to be. The Authorized Version initially replaced the text of the Great Bible for Epistle and Gospel readings and was authorized by the parliament of England. Subsequently, the Bishop’s Bible  was no longer used and printed for use in the Anglican church.

The KJV did not become the “Authorized” version for all scripture in England until after 1662 and 1633 for the Irish.

Easter, as we know it, comes from the ancient pagan festival of Astarte. Also known as Ishtar (pronounced “Easter”). This festival has always been held late in the month of April. It was, in its original form, a celebration of the earth “regenerating” itself after the winter season. The festival involved a celebration of reproduction. For this reason the common symbols of Easter festivities were the rabbit (the same symbol as “Playboy” magazine), and the eggBoth are known for their reproductive abilities. At the center of attention was Astarte, the female deity. She is known in the Bible as the “queen of heaven” (Jeremiah 7:18; 44:17-25). She is the mother of Tammuz (Ezekiel 8:14) who was also her husband! These perverted rituals would take place at sunrise on Easter morning (Ezekiel 8:13-16). From the references in Jeremiah and Ezekiel, we can see that the true Easter has never had any association with Jesus Christ. (Chick.com)

What was going on in the verses listed above had nothing to do with the “Festival of Ishtar.” The message was to those Jews who escaped and assimilated into the Egyptian culture, not the Babylonian culture. The Egyptians did not recognize Ishtar, although they do have texts mentioning Astarte. Either way, these were not standard Jews. These were just a small section of the Jewish remnant. The passage in Ezekiel is referring to temple desecrations that were happening in the 6th month of the Jewish year and Easter was celebrated in the first month (April). This is why one must always read the full context of passages.

This is where we have to also be good historians and realize that Jeremiah and Ezekiel lived in different locations and time periods as Jesus and the Jews of the 1st century. Yes, a celebration of sorts was derived from Ishtar and Astarte…. kind of. Ishtar was the Akkadian and Babylonian goddess of war, sex, fertility, and sometimes other things. She hailed from ancient Babylon and certainly the OT prophets would have known her well since they were captives in Babylon for a time. However, the Babylonians were overtaken by the Persians in 539 BCE. This was 500 years before Greco-Roman world of Jesus and his followers. Astarte was an Egyptian goddess compatible to Ishtar but know that they are two different beings in the ancient world.

Ostara by Johannes Gehrts

Ostara by Johannes Gehrte (Where Easter came from)

To simply say that Easter was a festival for Ishtar, and that is where Easter comes from,  is missing a lot of history and we must also remember that Babylon and Rome were very different cultures with very different gods and goddesses. The Romans had a spring time festival but it was not associated with Ishtar or Astarte. It would make little sense that the Greco-Roman world adopt a Babylonian goddess and her festival, when the Babylonians had been decimated hundreds of years earlier by the Persians. So what did the Romans celebrate?

They had two spring celebrations. The first was Veneralia which was for the goddess Venus and also Hilaria which was for the goddess Cybele. We will discuss Hilaria a little later on in this post. So then, where did the name Easter come from if not from Ishtar?

The evidence points more towards the Romans eventually being connected with the festival of goddess Ēostre or Ostara which was later adopted via the merging of Rome with Germanic cultures. But this did not happen until hundreds of years after Acts 12. Ēostre was the festival that was associated with eggs, new life, and eventually symbolized by the rabbit. The festival of Eostre was prominent enough that the month of April was called Eosturmonath by the later Germanic cultures.

The Jews did not celebrate any of these festivals though. They celebrated Passover. Thus, while the Romans were celebrating their own Roman holidays, like Veneralia and Parilia, the Jews were celebrating Passover. But the early church was also Jewish so the first Christians developed a Christianized form of the Passover and still called it Passover, even though it was really a celebration of Jesus’resurrection. But early Greek speaking Christians called the celebration Passover (Greek: Πάσχα). They never called it Easter until centuries later.

Additionally, the Jewish Passover (Πάσχα) feast was too close in nature and date with the Christian resurrection celebration which caused confusion for non-Jews and non-Christians because almost everyone in the first century recognized Christians as part of the Jewish religion. This issue was resolved during the reign of constantine (306 – 337AD). The two holidays were often celebrated in the same week or two and Constantine wanted nothing to do with the Jews. He needed to separate the Jewish Passover from the Christian Passover. This is why we don’t call it Passover anymore. Constantine and the Council at Nicaea ended up separating the two holidays so the Christians would be more distinct from the Jewish holiday.

Roman emperor Constantine declared: “Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd; for we have received from our Saviour a different way.” (Eusebius’ Life of Constantine, Book III chapter 18)

This sentiment was made permanent by the Counsel Nicaea in 325 CE. They came to the decision that Easter will fall on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox (from the perspective of the Northern Hemisphere), but will never fall at the beginning of the Jewish Passover. This separate Christian celebration, distinct from Passover, is what later became known as Eostre once the Roman empire decayed into the Roman-British empire (43 – 409AD) and eventually Anglo-Saxon empire (500 – 1066AD).

Why the KJV went with Easter (explained by Chick)

Problem: Even though the Jewish Passover was held in mid April (the fourteenth) and the pagan festival Easter was held later the same month, how do we know that Herod was referring to Easter in Acts 12:4 and not the Jewish Passover? If he was referring to the Passover, the translation of “pascha” as “Easter” is incorrect. If he was indeed referring to the pagan holyday (holiday) Easter, then the King James Bible (1611) must truly be the very word and words of God for it is the only Bible in print today which has the correct reading.

To unravel the confusion concerning “Easter” in verse 4, we must consult our FINAL authority, THE BIBLE. The key which unlocks the puzzle is found not in verse 4, but in verse 3. (Then were the days of unleavened bread… “) To secure the answer that we seek, we must find the relationship of the Passover to the days of unleavened bread. We must keep in mind that Peter was arrested during the “days of unleavened bread” (Acts 12:3).

Our investigation will need to start at the first Passover. This was the night in which the LORD smote all the firstborn in Egypt. The Israelites were instructed to kill a lamb and strike its blood on the two side posts and the upper door post (Exodus 12:4,5). Let us now see what the Bible says concerning the first Passover, and the days of unleavened bread.

Exodus 12:13-18:“And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.
    14 And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.
    15 Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.
    16 And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.
    17 And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever.
    18 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even.”

Here in Exodus 12:13 we see how the Passover got its name. The LORD said that He would “pass over” all of the houses which had the blood of the lamb marking the door.

After the Passover (Exodus 12:13,14), we find that seven days shall be fulfilled in which the Jews were to eat unleavened bread. These are the days of unleavened bread!

In verse 18 we see that dates for the observance were April 14th through the 21st.

This religious observance is stated more clearly in Numbers 28:16-18:

“And in the fourteenth day of the first month is the passover of the LORD.
    17 And in the fifteenth day of this month is the feast: seven days shall unleavened bread be eaten.
    18 In the first day shall be an holy convocation;ye shall do no manner of servile work therein:”

In verse 16 we see that the Passover is only considered to be the 14th of the month. On the next morning, the 15th begins the “days of unleavened bread.”

Deuteronomy 16:1-8:“Observe the month of Abib (April), and keep the passover unto the LORD thy God: for in the month of Abib the LORD thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night.
    2 Thou shalt therefore sacrifice the passover unto the LORD thy God, of the flock and the herd, in the place which the LORD shall choose to place his name there.
    3 Thou shalt eat no leavened bread with it; seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread therewith, even the bread of affliction: for thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt in haste: that thou mayest remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life.
    4 And there shall be no leavened bread seen with thee in all thy coast seven days; neither shall there any thing of the flesh, which thou sacrificedst the first day at even, remain all night until the morning. 

5 Thou mayest not sacrifice the passover within any of thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee:
    6 But at the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to place his name in, there thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even, at the going down of the sun, at the season that thou camest forth out of Egypt. <

7 And thou shalt roast and eat it in the place which the LORD thy God shall choose: and thou shalt turn in the morning, and go unto thy tents.
    8 Six days thou shalt eat unleavened bread: and on the seventh day shall be a solemn assembly to the LORD thy God: thou shalt do no work therein.”

Here in Deuteronomy we see again that the Passover is sacrificed on the first night (Deuteronomy 16:1). It is worth noting that the Passover was to be celebrated in the evening (vs.6) not at sunrise (Ezekiel 8:13-16).

In II Chronicles 8:13 we see that the feast of unleavened bread was one of the three Jewish feasts to be kept during the year.

II Chronicles 8:13:“Even after a certain rate every day, offering according to the commandment of Moses, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts, three times in the year, even in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles.”

Whenever the Passover was kept, it always preceded the feast of unleavened bread. In II Chronicles 30 some Jews who were unable to keep the Passover in the first month were allowed to keep it in the second. But the dates remained the same.

II Chronicles 30:l5,21:“Then they killed the passover on the fourteenth day of the second month: and the priests and the Levites were ashamed, and sanctified themselves, and brought in the burnt offerings into the house of the LORD. And the children of lsrael that were present at Jerusalem kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with great gladness: and the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day by day, singing with loud instruments unto the LORD.”

Ezra 6:19,22: “And the children of the captivity kept the passover upon the fourteenth day of the first month. And kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy: for the LORD had made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.”

We see then, from studying what the BIBLE has to say concerning the subject that the order of events went as follows:

(1) On the 14th of April the lamb was killed. This is the Passover. No event following the 14th is ever referred to as the Passover.

(2) On the morning of the 15th begins the days of unleavened bread, also known as the feast of unleavened bread.

It must also be noted that whenever the Passover is mentioned in the New Testament, the reference is always to the meal, to be eaten on the night of April 14th not the entire week. The days of unleavened bread are NEVER referred to as the Passover. (It must be remembered that the angel of the Lord passed over Egypt on one night, not seven nights in a row.

To sum up the explanation made by Chick, there is an organization to the Passover week. Day #1 is considered Passover and then the next 7 days are the Days of Unleavened Bread. This will be come more important to the KJV viewpoint in the next section. This point is emphasized in Chick’s last paragraph by repeating the idea that Passover never refers the whole week. However, that is not true. In fact, it directly contradicts the Bible.

In the first month on the fourteenth day you are to observe the Passover, a festival lasting seven days, during which you shall eat bread made without yeast. (Ezekiel 45:21)

Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching… (Luke 22:1)

Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover (Luke 2:41)

Additionally, extra-biblical writers attest to this period being fairly fluid in how it is referenced. Josephus writes in the Antiquities of The Jews,

..in memory of that time of want, we keep a feast for eight days, which is called the Feast of Unleavened Bread.. (Antiquities 2.14.6 311-317)

Many people believe that the Passover and Days of Unleavened bread merged after the captivity period in Babylon. After the Captivity many forgot their ancestor’s festivals and feasts. When Josiah reinstated the Jewish customs when the Torah was discovered many people were learning these holidays for the first time and there was clearly confusion about how they were to be done.

Then the king commanded all the people saying, “Celebrate the Passover to the Lord your God as it is written in this book of the covenant.” 22 Surely such a Passover had not been celebrated from the days of the judges who judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel and of the kings of Judah. (2 Kings 23:21-22)

This confusion is further demonstrated by a text from that time period called the Elephantine Papyri, which is a letter instructing fellow Jews on how to celebrate the feast of Unleavened Bread.

Elephantine Papyrus Col6cmh

Elephantine Papyrus

 

[To] my [brethren Yedo]niah and his colleagues the [J]ewish gar[rison], your brother Hanan[iah]. The welfare of my brothers may God [seek at all times]. Now, this year, the fifth year of King Darius, word was sent from the king to Arsa[mes saying, “Authorise a festival of unleavened bread for the Jew]ish [garrison].” So do you count fou[rteen days of the month of Nisan and] obs[erve the passover], and from the 15th to the 21st day of [Nisan observe the festival of unleavened bread].

(Elephantine Papyri)

Clearly by Jesus’ time it was acceptable for the entire week to be called Passover. More importantly, the guy who actually wrote the passage this debate is about is the same guy who wrote Luke 22:1, which clearly states that the entire week was considered Passover. I point all this out now because the next part of the Chick argument relies on this false assumption, that Passover never refers to the whole week.


KJVO and Chick’s Explanation

Now let us look at Acts 12:3,4:“And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) 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.”

Verse 3 shows that Peter was arrested during the days of unleavened bread (April 15-2 1). The Bible says: “Then were the days of unleavened bread.” The Passover (April 14th) had already come and gone. Herod could not possibly have been referring to the Passover in his statement concerning Easter. The next Passover was a year away! But the pagan holiday of Easter was just a few days away. Remember! Herod was a pagan Roman who worshiped the “queen of heaven”. He was NOT a Jew. He had no reason to keep the Jewish Passover. Some might argue that he wanted to wait until after the Passover for fear of upsetting the Jews. There are two grievous faults in this line of thinking.

Before I allow the argument by Chick continue I must again address this assumption that Herod or other provincial leaders worshiped Ishtar/Astarte, the queen of heaven. Not all pagan cultures worshipped the same pagan deities. This Roman Ishtar theory has been proven to be wrong many times over. Herod was a Roman, not an ancient Babylonian ruler. The Romans held Venus to be the goddess of the April festivals of new life. They called the festivals Veneralia and it was on April 1st, not the 21st. Thus, the Roman’s “Easter” festival was already over and it was not called Easter or anything close to it.

hilaria Information

Festival of Hilaria, for goddess Cybele

These Greco-Roman holidays are also where we get April Fool’s day from. Both the Romans and the Germanic culture celebrated new life at the end of March and beginning of April. The Romans celebrated Hilaria on March 25, which they adopted from the Greeks and their festival for the goddess Cybele. The ancient writer Herodian of Antioch (170-240AD) explained that this celebration was often accompanied by games, masquerades, and even imitation of politicians as humor. As noted earlier, when the Roman’s culture declined, Greco-Roman festival meshed with the Germanic festival Eostre which also accompanied tricks and jokes. The word Easter as we know it came from the Germanic celebrations that were adopted and changed by the Catholic church to be more Christian in nature. Easter did not come from the ancient Babylonian goddess, Ishtar.

I say all that to point out that there was no Roman holiday called “Easter” happening after the Passover or any other time for that matter (Passover started on the 15th and ended on the 21st. The only celebration in the Roman culture that was near the 21st was Parilia, which was a shepherd festival dedicated to cleansing the flocks. It was used in Jesus’ time also to honor the Caesar and was also accompanied by a parade of priests and noblemen. Eventually it became synonymous with the celebration of Rome’s birthday and was renamed Romaea. Naturally, this holiday withered with in the formation Roman-British empire and was completely dead during the 5th century with the rise of the Anglo-Saxon empire, who gave us Eostre (Easter).

To be clear, Easter did not exist in Rome, at all, until centuries later after Herod was dead and gone and the Catholic church reformed it from other cultures.

Now back to what’s left of the Chick KJV explanation.

First, Peter was no longer considered a Jew. He had repudiated Judaism. The Jews would have no reason to be upset by Herod’s actions.

That is also incorrect. The early church was very Jewish. This is clear in the book of Acts since Peter was the head of the Jewish Christian church in Jerusalem and it was Peter that got into a tussle with his fellow Jewish Christians for eating with Gentiles. The Jews and the Jewish Christians did not completely split until the destruction of the temple in 70AD, which greatly exacerbated Jewish-Christian relations.

Second, he could not have been waiting until after the Passover because he thought the Jews would not kill a man during a religious holiday. They had killed Jesus during passover (Matthew 26:17-19,47). They were also excited about Herod’s murder of James. Anyone knows that a mob possesses the courage to do violent acts during religious festivities, not after.

In further considering Herod’s position as a Roman, we must remember that the Herods were well known for celebrating (Matthew 14:6-11). In fact, in Matthew chapter 14 we see that a Herod was even willing to kill a man of God during one of his celebrations.

This attempt to explain why Herod waited (as to not upset the Jews) is wrongly assuming that non-KJV readers believe the Jews would be upset if it happened during Passover, which is not something we universally accept. It’s a straw-man argument. We have no way of knowing how the Jews would have reacted if it happened during Passover. What we DO know is that most of the Jews would have been pre-occupied with the Passover week and since Herod was clearly killing Peter to impress the Jews, the Passover week is the least convenient time of the year to get their attention. That we know to be true without a doubt.

It is elementary to see that Herod, in Acts 12, had arrested Peter during the days of unleavened bread, after the passover. The days of unleavened bread would end on the 21st of April. Shortly after that would come Herod’s celebration of pagan Easter. Herod had not killed Peter during the days of unleavened bread simply because he wanted to wait until Easter. Since it is plain that both the Jews (Matthew 26:17- 47) and the Romans (Matthew 14:6-11) would kill during a religious celebration, Herod’s opinion seemed that he was not going to let the Jews “have all the fun “. He would wait until his own pagan festival and see to it that Peter died in the excitement.

Thus we see that it was God’s providence which had the Spirit-filled translators of our Bible (King James) to CORRECTLY translate “pascha” as “Easter”. It most certainly did not refer to the Jewish passover. In fact, to change it to “passover” would confuse the reader and make the truth of the situation unclear.

The final part of this argument by Chick is just a summary that he believes the Romans (Herod included) celebrated Easter on the 21st, after the Passover week, so it must make sense that this was the day Herod was waiting for. But we already know that Luke uses Passover to refer to the entire week and that the Romans had no such celebration honoring Ishtar or Astarte, or any other Babylonian/Akkadian goddess. They would have not even known who that was. Those festivals died hundreds of years earlier when the Persians destroyed the Babylonian empire.

The translators of the KJV used the word Easter incorrectly. In 1611 Easter was well known and established but in Peter’s day no such thing existed in Rome.


Easter/Passover Debate Summary

For those who prefer a quick summary of facts and might have been lost in the long article above, here is a short breakdown of the reason why “Easter” is the wrong translation.

  1. Easter was never known as the festival or celebration of Ishtar which is assumed in the KJV argument.
  2. Even if Easter was a real festival it would have been long dead before the Greco-Roman world in Jesus’ time.
  3. The Greeks and Romans had their own goddesses/celebrations and Ishtar-Easter were not among them.
  4. The idea that Passover can only refer to the first day of the Passover week and that the next 7 days are the “Days of Unleavened Bread” is false. Many times in the Bible and in Jewish writings we see that the Passover refers to the entire week.
  5. Killing Peter during the Passover would have been antithetical to what Herod wanted which was all the positive attention of the Jews but they would have busy with their feast celebrations. Since they would all still be there right after the feast days but they would not be busy this presented the best time to kill Peter.