Larry Slawson received his master's degree at UNC Charlotte. He specializes in Russian and Ukrainian history.
Should Christians Celebrate Easter?
Is the celebration of Easter Biblical? This article explores the fundamental fallacies surrounding the modern celebration of Easter. Further, it examines the unbiblical nature of Easter practices and traditions by analyzing both Bible doctrines and verses.
To be clear, this article is not an attempt to diminish the importance of Christ’s Resurrection, nor is it an attempt to criticize Christianity or chastise the Church for its current practices. The sole purpose of this article is to explore the fundamental fallacies that exist with the celebration of Easter and to demonstrate how its celebration is not supported by the Bible or the Lord Jesus Christ’s teachings.
As with any article on Biblical matters, individuals should never take this author’s word (or others) as fact but should always peruse the Bible themselves for both truth and assurance. In doing so, this author hopes you will be better informed of the Scriptural passages (and reasoning) behind why this holiday is false in the eyes of God.
In this article, you'll find answers to the following questions and more:
- Did Christ Really Die on Friday? (Good Friday)
- Was the Resurrection on a Sunday?
- When Did Christ Die?
- What Time of the Day Did Christ Die?
- Is Easter Mentioned in the Bible?
- What Are Easter's Pagan Origins?
- Are Easter “Sunday Services” Biblical?
- Is the Observance of Days Forbidden by the Bible?
1. Did Christ Really Die on Friday? (Good Friday)
One of the first issues concerning the celebration of Easter is the belief that Christ died on a Friday (Good Friday). However, if one examines Scripture, it is clear that Christ died on a Wednesday. Matthew 12:40 illustrates Christ’s prophecy concerning his death, burial, and Resurrection. In the verse, Christ states: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
If Christ had died on a Friday and rose from the dead on Sunday (as believed in many churches), then Christ’s prophecy is false, given that only two days exist between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning. Some scholars have argued that partial days can be considered a “day.”
However, Jesus himself defined what constituted a full day in John 11:9. In the verse, Jesus states: “…are there not twelve hours in a day?” If there are twelve hours in a day, then it can easily be implied that there are twelve hours in a night as well. Therefore, three days and three nights are nothing short of 72 hours, according to both a Biblical and scientific understanding of solar days.
2. Was the Resurrection on a Sunday?
Another misconception about Christ’s Resurrection is the belief that Christ rose from the grave on a Sunday. However, this is simply not the case as Matthew 28:1-2 and 5-6 state that Christ rose on the Sabbath: “In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. And the angel…said unto the women…I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is RISEN.”
Contrary to modern-day Christian beliefs, the Sabbath has never been on Sunday. As the book of Genesis teaches us, God rested on the seventh day after His creation of the world, which became the Sabbath. However, the seventh day of the week is not Sunday but Saturday. Examine any western calendar, and you will observe that Sunday is always listed as the first day of the week.
It is also important to note three separate things about this verse in Matthew. For one, the women visited Jesus’ tomb very late on the Sabbath (Saturday), just as Sunday was beginning to near. Second, by the time they had arrived at the tomb, Jesus was already gone. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it is crucial to note that Jewish days always began at sundown at approximately six o’clock in the evening, compared to the western world, which observes the start of a new day at midnight.
When we take each of these factors into account, three days and three nights in the tomb (or 72 hours) would indicate that Jesus died on a Wednesday and was placed in the tomb near six o’clock in the evening, thus, fulfilling the prophecy of Matthew 12:40 (the sign of Jonah).
3. When Did Christ Die?
Now that it has been established that Christ did not die on a Friday, but rather a Wednesday, let’s look at what time of the year He was crucified.
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According to John 19:31, Christ was crucified on the “Day of Preparation,” or the preparation day for the “Jewish Passover”: “The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.”
According to Jewish customs, the Passover always begins on the fourteenth day of the Jewish month, Nisan (according to Leviticus 23:5). The day that follows (the fifteenth) was always referred to as the “High Day Sabbath,” an annual Passover Sabbath observed in addition to the weekly Seventh Day Sabbath. As Leviticus 23:5-7 states: “In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’S Passover. 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. In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.”
Therefore, this 15th day was always a Sabbath regardless of which day of the week it fell on. And according to these scriptural passages, it is clear that Christ was crucified on the day preceding “High Day Sabbath” (Wednesday the 14th).
If we are to follow these passages, it is clear that Jesus ate the Passover during the first hours of Wednesday, just after six o’clock (Tuesday night, according to western concepts of time), where he then proceeded to the Garden, was arrested, tried, and crucified all on the same day (Wednesday). Because Christ was crucified during the Jewish month of Nisan, it is clear that He died during April (the equivalent of Nisan).
4. What Time of the Day Did Christ Die?
After establishing that Christ died on a Wednesday, another important thing to note about his crucifixion is that it was performed around three o’clock in the afternoon. According to Luke 23:44, 46: “And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.”
Here, the ninth hour refers to nine hours since the break of day. If sunrise occurs at six o’clock in the morning, the ninth hour indicates three in the afternoon. This would, in turn, allow Christ to be buried in the tomb before the end of Wednesday.
\Why is all of this important to understand, you may ask? Understanding the exact time of Christ’s death helps us to pinpoint and prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Christ was not crucified on a Friday. Nor did he rise from the grave on a Sunday as commonly practiced in Easter traditions.
5. Is Easter Mentioned in the Bible?
Another problem concerning Easter’s celebration is that it is not in the Bible. The word “Easter” (and its equivalents) appears in the Bible only once in Acts 12:4. When taken into context, however, the word “Easter” in this verse refers only to the Passover. No directions or guidance are ever given concerning the celebration or necessity of an Easter holiday. Nor does God ever furnish the Church with specific directions on how to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ.
We are told only how to worship and observe the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of Jesus. According to 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction of righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” In other words, the Bible thoroughly furnishes us with all of the necessary doctrines and teachings that we require.
Had the celebration of Easter been a crucial element of the Christian life, don’t you think it would have been included in the Bible?
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction of righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
— 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (KJV)
6. What Are Easter’s Pagan Origins?
In addition to the fact that Easter appears nowhere in the Bible, the celebration of Easter is also rooted in pagan traditions spanning thousands of years before the birth of Christ. According to History.com, the name “Easter” is derived from the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre, who was the goddess of light and spring (https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/history-of-easter).
Easter can also be traced back to the days of the Babylonians, Phoenicians, and Chaldeans. These groups celebrated Easter as a spring festival in honor of Astarte (or Ishtar), the goddess of spring and rebirth (Halff, 6). According to historian Alexander Hislop, Easter “is not a Christian name” and bears Chaldean origins (Halff, 6).
Easter (Ishtar) also served as a mythological creature of the Babylonian religion and was believed to have had rabbits that laid eggs of various colors. Eggs represented a new life, whereas the colored eggs symbolized wishes “for a bright new year ahead” (Halff, 6). According to Dr. Charles Halff, the rabbit and eggs symbolize fertility and sex, respectively (6). Therefore, every time you hide brightly colored Easter eggs, you celebrate an ancient practice of pagan civilizations.
7. Are Easter “Sunrise Services” Biblical?
In addition to the pagan origins of the Easter Bunny and eggs, Easter sunrise services are also unbiblical, given that they are a form of idolatry. In fact, the Bible clearly warns about the observance of these forms of service in Ezekiel 8:15-16 and 18: “… turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these. And he brought me into the inner court of the LORD’S house, and behold, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east: and they worshipped the sun toward the east…and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them.”
In this example, God is specifically condemning the children of Israel for performing sunrise services because it is a form of idolatry. He even states that it is a great abomination. Why is this the case? By looking to the east and awaiting the approach of the Sun above the horizon, more focus and attention is devoted to the Sun’s movement than to the worship service. Yet, despite this, thousands of Christians worldwide participate in sunrise services every year.
Sunrise services are also closely linked to pagan traditions that occurred on Easter morning, in which they believed that the Sun was dancing for joy as it ascended above the horizon (Halff, 6). When individuals attend such services, they unknowingly reenact the worship of pagan goddesses (Halff, 6).
8. Is the Observance of Days Forbidden by the Bible?
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Easter’s celebration remains unbiblical because God strictly forbids Christians to observe certain days above others. In Galatians 4:10-11, the Bible states: “Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.”
God is greatly displeased when His followers observe certain days with higher esteem than others because they represent a form of idolatry. Moreover, why should Christians only celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ once a year? His Resurrection is an event that should be celebrated 365 days a year, 24/7, as His ascent from the grave is what gives Christians across the globe salvation. This momentous event should be at the cornerstone of Christian beliefs at all times, and not only one Sunday service a year.
The Truth of Easter and a Christian Relationship With Christ
In closing, the celebration of Easter is full of traditions, customs, and beliefs that Christians have practiced for centuries. Yet, as we have seen, none of these traditions are based upon Biblical teachings. Instead, many of these traditions formed the backbone of pagan rituals of civilizations that preceded the birth of Christ by millennia.
Grasping these truths is crucial for Christians, particularly as churches make it appear that the Easter celebration is a commandment from God. However, if we observe Scriptural teachings, nothing could be farther from the truth. If anything, these practices and traditions only serve to displease God.
Therefore, knowing the truth is essential for all Christians in their relationship with Christ. As John 8:32 states most eloquently: “ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
Halff, Charles.The Fallacies of Easter: Is Easter Pagan or Christian? Christian Jew Foundation, 1970.
History.com Editors. “Easter 2022: Why Is Easter Called ‘Easter’.’ History.com, 7 Apr. 2022, https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/history-of-easter. Accessed 12 June 2022.
Heng, Pisit. “A look from inside out the tomb in Israel.” Unsplash, https://unsplash.com/photos/ci1F55HaVWQ. Accessed 12 June 2022.
Kameníček, Jan. “Easter eggs - straw decoration.” Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Easter_eggs_-_straw_decoration.jpg. Accessed 12 June 2022.
Kiel, Ernst. “Die Gartenlaube (1895).” Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Die_Gartenlaube_(1895)_b_240.jpg. Accessed 12 June 2022.
© 2019 Larry Slawson
Rebecca Peters on April 13, 2020:
I had a conversation with a friend wishing me a happy Easter, I then asked him what Easter was but couldn't give an answer to my question.
I was forced to search for an article that intensively explain what this Easter celebration could be all about.
I'm so grateful that I found this and was able to read through with utmost understanding...
Thanks man, I've learned so much from this article.
June on October 17, 2019:
I will share scriptures that don’t support the trinity it is not a mystery . As some religions would have you believe.
GE Hoostal on July 03, 2019:
3 nights: synecdoche, like 6 days in Mt 17:1 = 8 days in Mk 9:2. Prophecies DIRECTLY about the Resurrection say Christ would rise ‘the third day’, ‘te trite hemera’, i.e. ON, not AFTER. Mt 28:1 says ‘opse de Sabbaton’, AFTER the Sabbath. Jewish & Eastern Christian days begin at sunset, as in Gn 1, so ‘day’ can = 24 hrs. All Christians in the Bible except Romans are E. Christians. So it already had been Sun. for ~ 12 hrs.
Modern-day true Christian beliefs = the ancient: every Holy Sat., we Byzantine Christians sing, ‘THIS IS THE most blessed SABBATH day…’ Holy Sat. is MegaSABBATon in Greek, Velikaya SUBBOTa in Russian, etc. Ethiopian Christians STILL keep the Sabbath same as the Jews. Holy Wk events are explained in the Didiscalia Apostolorum. St Ign. of Antioch wrote, ‘But let every one of you KEEP THE SABBATH after a spiritual manner…AND AFTER THE OBSERVANCE OF THE SABBATH, LET EVERY FRIEND OF CHRIST KEEP THE LORD’S DAY AS A FESTIVAL, THE RESURRECTION-DAY…’ Who knows Christ’s teaching better, the Apostles themselves & their disciples, or any of us who only picks up a Bible & uses fallible reasoning to try to deduce the teaching, which isn’t all contained there anyway (cf. Mk 4:33,34)?
Day of Prep.: ‘for the next day was High Sabbath’ (megale Sabbatou), (Jn 19:31), the Megasabbaton we E. Christians have celebrated ever since. You go from ‘megale sabbatou’ to essentially, ‘not any sabbatou whatsoever, but Passsover instead’. So ‘it is clear’, ‘it has been est.’, etc. is the Fallacy of Argument by Assertion.
Furnishing: Hb 9 says, Even the 1st Tabernacle had ordinances of divine worship & an earthly sanctuary. Then it summarizes them & their sacrifices. Then it reminds us we have a greater & more perfect Tabernacle, & it req’s better sacrifices (in plural). ∴ the greater & more perfect Tabernacle has greater & more perfect ordinances of divine worship. Not every sacrifice is acceptable, e.g. Korah’s. But a greater priesthood is req’d now, the hierourgounta in Rm 15:16, the priesthood of the order (taxin) of Melchizedek. The priesthood of all believers predates the Lev. priesthood so the former can’t replace the latter, & the former is a lateral arrangement but a taxis is vertical: ‘one member over another in rank…ancient military term…an ordered troop…arranged in descending rank’ (Bible Hub). ∴ since the 1st Tabernacle had its priests & Pascha, the 2nd has greater priests & a greater & more perfect Pascha, which we do. The Jewish Passover is a shadow of it (Hb 10:1)—compare a flat, black shadow to the detail, color, & fullness of what casts it. Then consider how the Tabernacle was beautiful & had elaborate ceremonies. So the Church must have beauty & ritual of a GREATER DIMENSION, as I’m sure you as a student of Russia have read St Vladimir’s emissaries found in Constantinople: ‘We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth, for we cannot forget that beauty.’ Haven’t you attended the midnight Pascha? We’re to to stand fast & hold the traditions (paradoseis) taught by [spoken] word (logou) & epistle (epistoles) (2Th 2:15). You accept our paradoseis of epistoles but not our paradoseis of logou. You got your NT from Catholics/Orthodox, & you don’t trust us for ANYTHING else, incl. our OT, so why trust that we perfectly copied, vetted, approved, compiled, & handed down the NT to the 1st Protestants?
Biblical worship = proskynesein, i.e. prostration, bowing, & kissing, all of which E. Christians do tons of. And the Disciples at the Last Supper passed on authority directly (Ac 8:18,19), so the Eucharist’s not D.I.Y. In 2Tm 3:16, the purported ‘all’ is actually ‘pasa’, which means taken ‘one piece at a time.’ (Bible Hub.) ‘Graphe’ is singular: ‘Scripture’ = 1 v. ∴ that v. means each v. taken separately is inspired & profitable. If ‘ophelimos’, ‘profitable’, were ‘all-sufficient’, then believers’ being careful to excel in good works (Tt 3:8) would be all-sufficient, making believing superfluous. If each v. were all-sufficient, pointing out to us Catholics/Orthodox any 1 v. would make us instant Protestants. Protestants tried to evangelize me when I was an agnostic—didn’t work, obviously. See v. 15 for the Scriptures in ‘every Scripture’: those St Timothy had known since infancy. The NT hadn’t been written yet, he’s Greek/Jewish, Ac 2:7–11 demonstrates that each Jew knew only the vernacular lang. of his birthplace, he’s from a Greek city, & the Greek OT is the LXX, the OT of us Byzantines. Incl. even more books than the RC Canon, & proof the Masoretes were corrupt (e.g. Is 7:14 LXX v. MT). The Bereans, being in Greece, likewise had the LXX. If they had searched the MT (it didn’t yet exist), then ∵ it didn’t match the Faith & Apostolic teaching, they wouldn’t have converted! 2Tm 3:16 means the LXX in its full Canon must be accepted.
Protestants got their OT from Jews & NT from us, each w/ pre-determined purpose. Neither source ever said it contained all crucial items. E. Churches canonized Scripture, whichever books of it each had at the time, TO BE READ IN CHURCH. All items in the Canon are holy; nothing uncanonical is Scripture; ∴ nothing uncanonical is holy? Fallacy of Illicit Major. So E. Churches have different Canons all simultaneously true. And who might anyone be to decide what’s ‘crucial’?
If the Bible contains all necessary doctrines, why doesn’t it prohibit cannibalism? Where are the traditions taught by spoken word only, the divine ordinances for the new Tabernacle, the marriage & funeral rites, the Canon OF Scripture W/I Scripture? Not from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zacharias, b.t.w., ∵ Christ wasn’t pronouncing woe unto the Pharisees for having too many books in their OT; Zacharias was killed btw the altar & temple, inner side of the altar, but Zechariah was killed in the ct, outer side of the altar; Zacharias is in the NT (Lk 1); & if the death of Zechariah would have closed the Canon, everything after his death—incl. 2Ch 24:21 & Lk 11:51!—would be inadmissible. Where does it say you’re allowed to have pews, pulpits, unbiblical instruments, or to pray sitting or w/ closed eyes? Where are the rest of the explanations of parables, esp. who is the 1 porter (Mk 13:34) for the whole house? No one would have any authority to tell someone misinterpreting Scripture that he’s misinterpreting it. You can tell a certain Protestant in error that he’s in error, but he does likewise to you: nobody’s objectively corrected. And w/ 100s of 1000s of divisions (all ‘non-denom’ churches are separated from each other), who could objectively be said to have caused any? Always whoever’s on the OTHER side of 1, so how are vv. against ‘divisions’ profitable? Not an invisible church, ∵ how could we tell to the whole church the sin of our brother not listening, w/o going to law b/f unbelievers, how could the church speak as 1, & how could we as 1 treat him as a heathen & a publican?
We E. Christians, Chaldeans incl’d, don’t have ‘Easter’, only Pascha. Like Anglo-Saxons brought a pagan goddess to the Holy Land? Like Christians recently converted to the true Faith, who were being persecuted, tortured, & martyred BY the pagans, incl. for smashing pagan statues, fell right into error, mixing into their Faith worship of the same idols they had just destroyed, & then the OTHER Christians were like,
Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on April 22, 2019:
Larry Slawson (author) from North Carolina on April 22, 2019:
Thank you Ms. Dora! I'm glad you enjoyed :)
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 22, 2019:
Your presentation is clear and factual. Thanks.
Larry Slawson (author) from North Carolina on April 19, 2019:
Hi Cristine! I’m glad you enjoyed! Thank you!
Cristina Santander from Manila on April 18, 2019:
Great hub, interesting revelations, a great eye opener. Thanks for bringing these facts into light.
Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on April 18, 2019:
Hi, Larry, I appreciated you. Thanks.
Larry Slawson (author) from North Carolina on April 18, 2019:
Thank you Miebakagh! I'm glad you enjoyed!
Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on April 17, 2019:
Hello, Harry, my pleasure in reading the story. I agreed with every detail. And the way you present facts is convincing. However, some Christian, especially among the orthodox and charismatics have their mindset settled on the usual days of Friday and Sunday as the death and resurrection days. Thanks for sharing.
Larry Slawson (author) from North Carolina on April 17, 2019:
Thank you Cheryl! I'm so glad you enjoyed reading. Yes, I agree 100 percent. Its an uphill battle with others at times.
Cheryl E Preston from Roanoke on April 17, 2019:
This truly is the most balanced article I have been able to find thus far regarding this subject. Thank You. And You are correct we should celebrate His resurrection every day. I try to but many around me are traditional. It's an uphill battle.