The Christian origins of Easter
Judeo-Christian origins of Easter:
A very common theme present in many ancient Pagan religions described the life of a man-god -- a savior of humanity -- his execution, his visit to the underworld, his resurrection after two or three days, and his ascension to heaven. The life of Yeshua of Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ) as recorded in the Gospels includes the Christian version of this theme. Good Friday is observed in remembrance of Jesus' execution by the occupying Roman army, and his burial in a cave-tomb. Easter Sunday is the date when a group of his female followers first noticed the empty tomb, and concluded that he had either been resurrected, or his body had been stolen.
The timing of the Christian celebration of Easter is linked to the Jewish celebration of the Passover. Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were observed by the ancient Israelites early in each new year. (The Jewish people followed the Persian/Babylonian calendar and started each year with the Spring Equinox circa MAR-21). "Equinox" means "equal night;" on that date of the year, the night and day are approximately equal. The name "Passover" was derived from the actions of the angel of death as described in the book of Exodus. The angel "passed over" the homes of the Jews which were marked with the blood obtained from a ritual animal sacrifice. The same angel exterminated the first born(s) of every family whose doorway was not so marked - one of the greatest acts of mass-murder mentioned in the Bible. Victimized were first-born sons as well as the first-born of domesticated animals.
When was Yeshua (Jesus) executed?
Passover was the most important feast of the Jewish calendar, celebrated at the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox. (The Equinox typically occurs on March 20, 21 or 22 according to our present calendar.) The Gospels differ on the date of Jesus' execution:
Most theologians reject John's timing. They assume that John chose a false date for symbolic reasons. He made Jesus' execution synchronize with the sacrifice of the Pascal lamb in the Temple at Jerusalem. If Jesus was murdered on a Friday, then Passover would have fallen on a Thursday. This happened both in the years 30 and 33 CE.
Many theologians accept an execution date of Friday, 30-APR-7 CE as correct. However, this date does produce some difficulties with the timing of Jesus' ministry. Most theologians reject the inference in the Gospel of John that Jesus taught over an interval in excess of two years and less than four years. An early crucifixion date is compatible with a one-year ministry, as implied in the Synoptic gospels where only a single Passover is mentioned. Some authorities prefer the date of 33-APR-3 CE. However, this late timing causes problems in other ways. It does not seem to allow sufficient time for Saul's persecutions of Christians, Paul's conversion, his three-year absence from Palestine, and his early evangelism before the Jerusalem Council was held. In 1733, the great British scientist, Sir Isaac Newton, computed two likely dates: 33-APR-7 and 34-APR-23. He preferred the latter. The AD 34 choice has few supporters today; it conflicts with the date of Paul's conversion. Also, it requires that five Passovers had occurred during Jesus' ministry and depends on a reference of the corn at Passover in Luke 6:1. These are not considered compelling. 1
Most Christians believe that Jesus Christ was executed and buried just before the beginning of Passover on Friday evening. A minority believe that the execution occurred on a Wednesday or Thursday. Various dates other than the two above have been suggested:
Some liberal Christians have suggested that the actual date of Jesus' execution is unknown, that it might have happened at any time during the year, and that the early Christian church arbitrarily selected Passover as the time. This allowed them to link the most important religious days in Judaism and Christianity. It also allowed the human sacrifice of Jesus ("Christ our paschal lamb" in 1 Corinthians 5:7) to be linked to the sacrifice of the Pascal lamb in the Jewish Temple.
Other theologians have suggested that Yeshua of Nazareth never existed, or that he lived centuries earlier, or that he was never crucified. Over one billion Muslims in the world believe that he was not executed by the Roman Army.
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