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Easter and Passover were Synonyms in 1611

Posted by LoveGrams on April 19, 2015 at 3:35 AM Comments comments (0)

William Tyndale invented the English word, "Passover" in 1539 as a synonym to the Jewish Feast of Unleaven Bread. In 1611 the KING JAMES HOLY BIBLE Translators as well as all others in Europe during that time period used the word Easter in Acts 12:4 meaning, "Passover".

Acts 12:4 - Passover and Easter Are One In The Same


Acts 12:4 (KJV) "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 (NKJV) "So when he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after Passover."

The presence of "Easter" in Acts 12:4 in the KJV is perhaps the best-known and most-discussed "translation error" in KJV-only discussions. Mountains of articles and commentaries have been written on this single word, whether the Greek word "pascha" should be translated as "Easter" or "Passover" in this verse. It is my goal in writing this article to not simply reiterate what is amply found elsewhere, but to provide a fresh perspective by slicing through the rhetoric and simplifying the issue by providing some brief history, clear definitions from scripture and often-ignored facts.

Early English Bibles

In the late-14th century, when Wycliffe translated the first English New Testament, the English word "Passover" did not even exist yet! In the 29 places1 "pascha" occurs in the New Testament, Wycliffe used "pask" or "paske"2 - a modified version of "pascha" (following the Latin Vulgate word "pascha" which is essentially identical to the Greek word). In Tyndale's 1535 translation, most instances appear as "ester" - the three exceptions are Matt 26:17 (which has "paschall" lamb but is called the "ester" lamb just two verses later), Mark 14:12 ("pascall" lamb and "ester" lamb in the same verse), and John 18:28 ("paschall" lamb). Tyndale translated the NT before translating the OT, and although the church in general at that time (and prior) thought of the Jewish "Passover" and the Christian "Easter" as basically synonyms, Tyndale invented a new English word "Passover" when translating the OT, since "Easter" was somewhat of an anachronism since Christ's crucifixion and resurrection hadn't occurred until the NT. After Tyndale's translation, English translations began using "Passover" more and "Easter" less although it was still common to think of them as referring to the same time. For example, the 1539 Great Bible has "Easter" 15 times, and the 1568 Bishops' Bible (of which the KJV is a revision) only has "Easter" twice (John 11:55 and here in Acts 12:4).

Side note: Luther's German Bible ("the word of God in German" according to many KJV-only supporters) has "Oster" (Easter) and related words in all places, with the exception of Heb 11:28 ("Passa"). Conversely, the Reina-Valera ("the word of God in Spanish") has "Pascua" (Passover) in all 29 places (including Acts 12:4), as well as in Luke 23:54, John 19:31 and John 19:42.


It is my position that "Easter" in Acts 12:4 in the KJV is not an error, if understood that from the early church until relatively recently "Passover" and "Easter" were basically synonyms and used interchangeably. The event referred to in Acts 12:4 is the Jewish week-long feast of unleavened bread (not the Christian commemoration of Christ's resurrection, nor a pagan festival), and to refer to it as "Easter" was common, even though it is no longer so. Where I do think that great error exists is in the KJV-only arguments as to why "Easter" is correct while "Passover" is wrong. Let's look at some of those arguments, comparing to what scripture says:

Basic Definitions vs. KJV-only Arguments

Most people know "Passover" is a Jewish feast associated with when the angel of the Lord "passed over" the houses of the captive Jews in Egypt (Exodus 12), but many people are fuzzy or confused on the details, so we'll start with a basic, Biblical definition of "Passover".

Lev 23:5-6 (KJV) "In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD'S passover. [6] And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread."

Num 28:16-17 (KJV) "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.

2 Chron 35:17 (KJV) "And the children of Israel that were present kept the passover at that time, and the feast of unleavened bread seven days."

Looking at those verses, it seems pretty clear that "Passover" is the 14th, and the "Feast of Unleavened Bread" starts on the 15th and lasts for 7 days (until the 21st):

Many KJV-only authors and supporters then argue that since Passover preceeds the Feast of Unleavened Bread, then when Herod took Peter (Acts 12:3) right before or during the "days of unleavened bread", then Herod could not have been waiting for "Passover" since it was already past, and thus the correct translation cannot be "Passover" but instead must be "Easter" (and understood a pagan holiday, not the Christian commemoration of Christ's resurrection)3.

KJV-only supporters who use the above line of argumentation need to do a little more study. There are two serious flaws in their thinking. First, they have forgotten that although for non-Jews days start and end at midnight, for Jews days start and end at sundown. This is crucial! Yes, the 14th is "the Passover" because that's when the Passover Lamb is sacrificed, but it is not until later that night that the Passover Feast (the eating of the lamb) takes place - in other words, the Passover Sacrifice is at the end of the 14th while the Passover Feast is on the beginning of the 15th:

Exodus 12:8 (KJV) "And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it."

Deut 16:6b-7 (KJV) "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." (the sacrifice takes place as the sun is going down (the afternoon, as the day is ending), then it is roasted and eaten later in the evening (when the new day has started))

As such, we now see there are at least two days associated with "Passover" in scripture. The 14th (the "Day of Preparation") when the Passover Lamb is sacrificed, and the 15th when it is eaten. Both appear to be the same "day" to us (for we think of days as ending Midnight), but on the Jewish calendar, it is two different days: the preparation/sacrifice day and the feast day.

The black/white patter in the top row indicates time of day,

the center of the black being midnight and the center of the white being noon.

The second flaw in the above KJV-only line of argumentation flows from the first. Because of forgetting that to the Jews, a "day" starts and ends at sundown, it is erroneously believed that the feast happens on the same day as the sacrifice and thus it is then claimed that "Passover" can only refer to the 14th and cannot be applied to the entire time in general4 - for if could be shown that the entire week could also be referred to as "Passover", their arguments fall flat. Since we see from the above information that the Passover Feast happens on the 15th, and the "Feast of Unleavened Bread" is on the 15th, it becomes clear that these "two" feast are one in the same! The Passover Feast is the feast on the 15th, and starts the week-long "feast" of eating unleavened bread. Does scripture confirm this, by ever using the term "Passover" to apply to the "Feast of Unleavened Bread"? It sure does!

Eze 45:21 (KJV) "In the first month, in the fourteenth day of the month, ye shall have the passover, a feast of seven days; unleavened bread shall be eaten."

Luke 22:1 (KJV) "Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover."

We now see that "Passover" can mean only the day of the 14th, the event of sacrificing and eating spanning the 14th and 15th, or even the entire week of unleavened bread which starts with the sacrifice and meal. So when we read in Acts 12:4 that Herod captured Peter during the "days of unleavened bread" and wanted to wait until after "pascha" to deal with him (to please the Jews, by not having a man killed during the week-long holiday), we see that translating "pascha" as "Passover" is correct, and the KJV-only arguments as to why "Passover" is wrong are based on faulty premises and misunderstanding of both Scripture and the Jewish calendar.


About Astarte/Ishtar

In my main comments above, I explained why "Passover" is a correct translation "pascha" in Acts 12:4. However, I did not address the common secondary argument common in KJV-only discussions of this verse. I will briefly address it here:

"Easter comes from the ancient pagan festival of Astarte/Ishtar, and Herod as a pagan was waiting for that event."

There are several problems with this argument:

• First, the idea that Easter is derived from Astarte/Ishtar5 seems to come first- or second-hand from Alexander Hislop's 1853 book The Two Babylons. As far as I can see, Hislop repeatedly makes the assertion of the connection between Easter and Astarte, but never provides any sources for his claim6. What is entirely ironic is that Hislop is not arguing that "Easter" was associated with Astart at the time of Herod - his argument is that "Easter" was originally entirely Christian but was corrupted by the Roman Catholic Church incorporating elements of pagan religions (including Astarte) in the 5th century A.D.7, long after Herod died. Despite this alleged connection of Astarte with Easter, many scholars now think this connection is a "false etymology", meaning that it is only assumed correct because of the similar sounds between "Easter" and "Ishtar". Instead, the name "Easter" is probably derived from the Anglo-Saxon pagan goddess (post-dating Herod) of "Eostur"8 (and for those anti-Easter folk out there: even if the name has some pagan origins does not mean the Christian commemoration is therefore also pagan).

• Second, there is not a shred of evidence that Herod was waiting for any pagan festival - it is pure, unsupported speculation in an attempt to make "Passover" into a bad translation. Instead, the passage tells us that Herod took Peter because "it pleased the Jews" - I think waiting for a pagan festival would have the opposite effect, as would killing Peter during the Holy week of Passover. For that matter, so would waiting to observe the Christian commemoration of Christ's resurrection.

• Third, to the KJV translators, "Easter" was not a pagan holiday, but a Christian one. They observed Easter and many of the calendar charts in the front of a 1611 KJV are based on Easter9. If "Easter" is a pagan holiday, the KJV translators were pagan.

• Forth, the 1828 Webster's dictionary, which many KJV-only supporters claim is the dictionary to use to define words in the KJV, gives the definition of "Easter" as "A festival of the christian church observed in commemoration of our Savior's resurrection. It answers to the pascha or passover of the Hebrews, and most nations still give it this name, pascha, pask, paque."

In conclusion we see that a little research in word etymology revels the truth that both the truth seekers are correct. The meaning is of the full week Passover/ Easter because the two words were used interchangeably during that period of time IN 1611.

And the KING JAMES HOLY BIBLE is again proven to be the only true English word for word translation of the Word of God to the English speaking people around the world. It is my position that "Easter" in Acts 12:4 in the KJV is not an error.


Dan McGowen

Galatians 2:20



An Exegesis on Acts 12:4

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In most European languages, the word for Easter comes from the Hebrew Pesach. We can see the connection easily in French Pâques, Italian Pasqua, Spanish Pascua, Dutch Pasen, Danish Påske or Russian Paskha, for example. All of these words refer to the Jewish feast of Passover, which was the setting for the Easter events recounted in the Christian Gospels.


Is the Name “Easter” of Pagan Origin?


Misconception: The church borrowed the name “Easter” from pagans.


The modern controversy over the name “Easter,” when used in association with the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus, is interesting, to say the least.


Clearing Up Misconceptions


Over time, many beliefs with little to no Biblical basis have crept into common Christian thinking. This web series aims to correct some of the most commonly held misconceptions about the Bible.


The modern controversy over the name “Easter,” when used in association with the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus, is interesting, to say the least. The controversy seems to have blossomed at the beginning of the twentieth century and has caused many disturbances through the years. Examining this question is important to many Christians who do not wish to mix the worship of false gods with their worship of the only true God.


The date of Easter has been claimed to follow pagan feasts. However, this claim falls flat when examined against the record of history. The name and symbols used in the celebration of the Resurrection have faced similar claims, and we should examine these with the same rigor.


The Claims of Pagan Origin


According to various sources, the name Easter has its origin with a goddess of the Anglo-Saxons named Eostre (also Estre, Estara, Eastre, Ostara, and similar spellings in various sources). It is believed that she is the goddess of the dawn and was worshipped in the spring by pagans in Northern Europe and the British Isles. In The Two Babylons, Alexander Hislop claimed Eostre is actually a name derived from the Babylonian goddess Astarte. Hislop extended this connection to include goddesses from around the world: Ishtar, Ashtoreth, Venus, and others. In fact, Hislop argued that all of the systems of gods and goddesses find their origin with Nimrod and his wife Semiramis at the Tower of Babel. Thus, every primary god is a figure of Nimrod, and every primary goddess is a figure of Semiramis.


Similar claims are made by Ralph Woodrow in his 1966 book Babylon Mystery Religion, but Woodrow drew heavily on Hislop’s work to support his claims. The thesis of each of these books is to connect the modern practices of the Roman Catholic Church to the idolatrous worship of various gods. While many of the claims in the books are sound, the connection of Eostre to these other goddesses is tenuous at best.


To those who have used Woodrow’s early work, please note that he has changed his position on many of the conclusions in the book. Woodrow has stopped circulating his early work and replaced it with an updated title The Babylon Connection? To demonstrate some of the false conclusions concerning pagan connections proposed by Hislop, Woodrow explains:


By this method, one could take virtually anything and do the same—even the “golden arches” at McDonald’s! The Encyclopedia Americana (article: “Arch") says the use of arches was known in Babylon as early as 2020 B.C. Since Babylon was called “the golden city” (Isa. 14:4), can there be any doubt about the origin of the golden arches? As silly as this is, this is the type of proof that has been offered over and over about pagan origins.1


Hislop’s logic becomes incomprehensible in places, and he made fundamental errors demonstrating his thinking to be false. For instance, he argued on a phonetic basis that Eostre from Saxony must be the same as Astarte, Ishtar, and Ashtoreth. This is a leap to consider their relationships based on the sound of the names alone. We might find many examples of words that sound the same in various languages but share no common root or meaning. Hislop attempted to make other connections, but they are unconvincing and do not take into consideration the time these goddesses were worshipped or the importance of the confusion of languages at Babel. He also neglected to consider the relationship between the English and German words used today.


There remains only one written record of a goddess who might be connected to Eostre of the Saxons. The church scholar Bede,2 who lived in modern-day England from AD 673–735, recorded the names of several of the goddesses worshipped by early Saxons. He identified Eostre as one whose festivals were celebrated in the month given her name.


Eosturmanath has a name which is now translated “Paschal month,” and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance.3


Bede’s description was tentatively confirmed in the nineteenth century by Jacob Grimm. Grimm was a linguist of the highest caliber who studied and preserved the histories, languages, and traditions of the Germanic peoples, also called Teutonic in older literature. This would include the Franks, Saxons, Angles, Slavs, Vandals, Goths, and others. These groups would have shared a common language family, and Grimm traced the connections among many of their gods and goddesses in his writings. Bede is discussed in the work Teutonic Mythology, first published in 1835.


The two goddesses, whom Beda (De temporum ratione cap. 13) cites very briefly, without any description, merely to explain the months named after them, are Hrede and Eâstre, March taking its Saxon name from the first, and April from the second. It would be uncritical to saddle this father of the church, who everywhere keeps heathenism at a distance, and tells us less of it than he knows, with the invention of these goddesses.


We Germans to this day call April ostermonat, and ostarmânoth is found as early as Eginhart [c. 800] ([contemporary of Charlemagne]). The great christian festival, which usually falls in April or the end of March, bears in the oldest of [Old High German] remains the name ôstarâ; it is mostly found in the plural, because two days (ôstartagâ, aostortagâ, Diut. 1, 266) were kept at Easter. This Ostrâ, like the [Anglo Saxon] Eâstre, must in the heathen religion have denoted a higher being, whose worship was so firmly rooted, that the christian teachers tolerated the name, and applied it to one of their own grandest anniversaries. All the nations bordering on us have retained the Biblical “pascha;” even Ulphilas writes paska, not austro, though he must have known the word; the Norse tongue also has imported its paskir, Swed[ish] pask, Dan[ish] paaske. The [Old High German] adv. ôstar expresses movement toward the rising sun (Gramm. 3, 205), likewise the [Old Norse] austr, and probably an [Anglo Saxon] eástor and Goth[ic] áustr.4 (Italics in original)


Some scholars have called Eostre an invention of Bede and discount the connections, but the confirmation of Grimm cannot be easily discredited; nor does the quality of Bede’s other works lead us to disbelieve him. Grimm established a clear connection between the Anglo-Saxon Eâstre and the German Ostrâ. Similar connections are found in etymologies that describe the origin of Easter from many sources. Ester and oster, the early English and German words, both have their root in aus, which means east, shine, and dawn in various forms.5 These names may have developed independent of the name of the goddess as a reference to the Easter festivals, or they may have been related to her name in some way.


Could There Be Another Origin of the Name “Easter”?


Contrary to suggesting a connection to a Saxon goddess, some have suggested Easter finds its root in the German word for resurrection—auferstehung. In a footnote to his translation of the work of Eusebius, Christian F. Cruse defended the usage of the word Easter:


Our English word Passover, happily, in sound and sense, almost corresponds to the Hebrew [pesach], of which is a translation. Exod. Xii. 27. The Greek pascha, formed from the Hebrew, is the name of the Jewish festival, applied invariably in the primitive church to designate the festival of the Lord’s resurrection, which took place at the time of the passover. Our word Easter is of Saxon origin, and of precisely the same import with its German cognate Ostern. The latter is derived from the old Teutonic form of auferstehn, Auferstehung, i. e. resurrection. The name Easter is undoubtedly preferable to pascha or passover, but the latter was the primitive name.6


Nick Sayers argued along these lines to suggest that the origin of Easter in English comes from the German:


Because the English Anglo/Saxon language originally derived from the Germanic, there are many similarities between German and English. Many English writers have referred to the German language as the "Mother Tongue!" The English word Easter is of German/Saxon origin and not Babylonian as Alexander Hislop falsely claimed. The German equivalent is Oster. Oster (Ostern being the modern day equivalent) is related to Ost which means the rising of the sun, or simply in English, east. Oster comes from the old Teutonic form of auferstehen / auferstehung, which means resurrection, which in the older Teutonic form comes from two words, Ester meaning first, and stehen meaning to stand. These two words combine to form erstehen which is an old German form of auferstehen, the modern day German word for resurrection.7 (Italics in original)


In the Hebrew, Passover is Pesach. The Greek form is simply a transliteration8 and takes the form Pascha. Virtually all languages refer to Easter as either a transliterated form of pascha or use resurrection in the name. English and German stand apart in their use of Easter (Ostern) to refer to the celebration of the Resurrection.


Form of pascha Resurrection Day/Feast Great Day/Night


Bulgarian—Paskha Serbian—Uskrs or Vaskrs Slovak—Veľká Noc


Dutch—Pasen Chinese—Fùhuó Jié Ukrainian—Velykden


Italian—Pasqua Korean—Buhwalchol Polish—Wielkanoc


Finnish—Pääsiäinen Vietnamese—Lễ Phục Sinh






We should also consider the early translations by German and English scholars in this examination. John Wycliffe was the earliest translator to publish a complete New Testament in English (1382), though he did his translation from the Latin Vulgate. Wycliffe transliterated the word pascha to pask, rather than translating it. When Martin Luther translated the Bible into German (New Testament in 1522), he chose the word Oster to refer to the Passover references before and after the Resurrection.


William Tyndale translated the Bible into English from the Greek and Hebrew. His New Testament (1525) uses the word ester to refer to the Passover. In fact, we owe our English word Passover to Tyndale. When translating the Old Testament (1530), he coined the term to describe how the Lord would “pass over” the houses marked with the blood of the lamb (Exodus 12). The usage of ester was retained in the 1534 revision of the New Testament, and it was not until later that it was known as Easter, adding the a. Luther and Tyndale were the first to use a translation of pascha rather than a transliteration.9


The following are comparisons of the early translations by Wycliffe, Luther, Tyndale, and the translators of the 1611 King James Version (KJV), demonstrating the handling of pascha.


Luke 2:41—This passage refers to a Passover festival before the Resurrection, using pascha (πάσχα [;)] .


Wycliffe—And his fadir and modir wenten ech yeer in to Jerusalem, in the solempne dai of pask.


Luther—Und seine Eltern gingen alle Jahre gen Jerusalem auf das Osterfest.


Tyndale—And his father and mother went to Hierusalem every yeare at the feeste of ester.


KJV—Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.


Acts 12:4—This passage refers to a Passover festival after the Resurrection, using pascha (πάσχα [;)] .


Wycliffe—And whanne he hadde cauyte Petre, he sente hym in to prisoun; and bitook to foure quaternyouns of knyytis, to kepe hym, and wolde aftir pask bringe hym forth to the puple.


Luther—Da er ihn nun griff, legte er ihn ins Gefängnis und überantwortete ihn vier Rotten, je von vier Kriegsknechten, ihn zu bewahren, und gedachte, ihn nach Oster dem Volk vorzustellen.


Tyndale—And when he had caught him he put him in preson and delyvered him to .iiii. quaternios of soudiers to be kepte entendynge after ester to brynge him forth to the people.


KJV—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.


1 Corinthians 5:7—This passage refers to Christ as the sacrificial Passover lamb, using pascha (πάσχα [;)] .


Wycliffe— . . . For Crist offrid is oure pask.


Luther— . . . Denn wir haben auch ein Osterlamm, das ist Christus, für uns geopfert.


Tyndale— . . . For Christ oure esterlambe is offered up for us.


KJV— . . . For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.




It would seem from the translations of Luther and Tyndale that by 1500, the word oster/ester simply referred to the time of the Passover feast and had no association with the pagan goddess Eostre. Even if the word had an origin in her name, the usage had changed to such a degree that Luther was comfortable referring to Christ as the Osterlamm. On the other hand, Cruse’s Resurrection etymology is also consistent with this passage, and Luther referred to Christ as the “Resurrection lamb.” Likewise, Tyndale was comfortable referring to Christ as the esterlambe.


To suggest these men thought of their Savior in terms of the sacrificial offering of a pagan goddess is quite absurd in light of their writings and translations of other portions of Scripture. Even the translators of the KJV, who relied heavily on Tyndale’s work, chose to use Easter in the post-Resurrection context of Acts 12:4. Using a word that means resurrection would not make sense to describe the Passover festivals prior to the Resurrection of Christ. However, Luther still used oster consistently in his New Testament.


Dan McGowen


Galatians 2:20


John 8:32 and 2nd Timothy 2:15 and John 16:13


Shalom. \o/-Woo-Hoo